“SERIOUSLY? Did I just RUN THAT?!” Yeah, in perfect conditions, optimal race situation to PR, at the biggest meet I could possibly hope to qualify for, a chance to prove I deserved to be there, no nervous breakdown, mindset of a champion and I had NOTHING. I’m finally addressing what my last blog had hyped up- US Outdoor Championships- the steeplechase in late June. We’re talking 10:16 here- 20 seconds from the minimal time goal and 12 spots away from the place goal I had set. (Without shame: prelim results. Women steeple seriously dominated this year and I have much respect and appreciation for the true pros in the sport. Final results – all 13 women under 10!)
It wasn’t a total surprise after the physical symptoms of feeling zero desire to move forward had set in during the past 3 weeks. Yet I still thought by default of inspiration and a few days rest I could at LEAST improve on my 10:02 at Portland Track Festival (in the middle of that 3 week phase). My mind was right on par for success, with belief and knowledge on what and how to do it. At about 300m in, it was clear that I was in the real life version of the dream where you are running in slow motion. I know I just run for fun, but part of me really wants to be 100% productive with each race and take advantage of setting new PRs (especially since many of my track PRs are relatively weak)… It didn’t happen in my final race and it should have been obvious I was headed for a crash.
My final mega volume, mind-blowing (for Julia Webb) workout result occurred the final Sunday in May. I had dug so deep in the final 2 mile “tempo” after legitimately setting personal bests from 600-400-300-200m. My digestive system was a mess, I wasn’t processing foods to help my tired body, inadequate sleep (blaming that on Joanie) and other stresses all factored into why I couldn’t quite recover and by next week Wednesday’s workout I was still fried. My projectory up in fitness and moved south to down. My “get fit quick” plan from my gigantic lack of base training (missing crucial months leading up to the track season), was just not gonna cut it to survive consistent training at that level. But I had to do something. It was day 4. Don’t want to lose fitness here*. (*common runner mistake thinking)
My coach was unavailable during that Wednesday workout and by rep 1 I was feeling zero pop, but able to muscle through it. Each rep I was continuing to feel the strain but able to rely on my persistence to get it done. By rep 14 (400’s over 5 hurdles which I was not too keen on anyway); I had pretty much gone deeper in that hole I had dug and eventually never got out. To make matters even worse I had to rush off, in fight or flight mode basically til I finally arrived at my parents house- 2000 miles and 10 hours later. I will never take for granted how relaxing a flight is without your kid. The direct flight to Sacramento was a luxurious experience, completely quiet, able to actually read more than one page of my book and completely zone out! I wouldn’t have minded if we ended up stuck in the air another couple hours.
My WI trip had been the 2nd of that duration and intensity within 2.5 weeks. Not great timing when you are trying to keep your life stress free and consistent in training. The intensity factor= solo with Joanie. And no she doesn’t fall asleep on any flights. From the 14×400 track workout with 70 hurdles- all well under my goal pace- I rushed home to shower, shoveled some food in while driving – over to pick up my toddler heading into the LONG night ending in Wisconsin. Unfortunately Joanie did not have the chance to get her equivalent of running 12 miles in. She had been loaded up on a steady stream of carbs and sugar all day at daycare (like she always is)- ready to give mommy the ultimate test of endurance.
The following day on my first run back to the Midwest, the humidity added to my insult. It had just stopped snowing less than a few weeks ago, but now it was back to 85 degrees and 90% humidity. Pacific Northwest runners are spoiled. The following 3 days I struggled heavily through the brick of hot air in what was suppose to be “recovery” runs, willing myself to take steps forward. It was so bad I seriously had to say “step forward” at some points. I looked for any excuse to stop mid run to stretch to ease the suffering. Seriously an 8 mile run was that difficult. Why I didn’t take a day off I don’t have a flippin clue. I got a much needed massage and thought that would solve my problems. Instead I just ended up with $100 less in my bank account.
After witnessing my brother Jake get happily married on Friday, I planned a medium intensity track session to happen on Sunday. My old friend, head coach at UW-O Eamon McKenna and sister Molly Rudd joined in the festivities. I requested to begin the intervals at 1pm so I could get ready for any heat I may face later this summer. As I churned out one flat but on pace interval after another with Eamon’s sweat flying into my face, I knew continuing that pace for more than the rep required was a joke. How I was going to run the 9:50 I was imagining just 10 days ago was becoming more and more a no-longer-possible feat. Upon my return, later that week I pulled it together at Portland Track Festival, but to me at the time, it was a failure finishing well off my personal best. Unexpectedly I put my name into the USA entries on the last possible day and got into the US meet (ranked 23 of 26). I would not pass that up. For a non-pro runner like myself to qualify for that, competing is a no brainer.
From that point, despite my rough workout just before “hell weekend” with Joanie in Seattle to watch Alan’s race, I was constantly telling myself upstairs I was going to do great (even though the legs had other plans). Poor Joanie was not feeling 100% and I had dragged her around to watch one of the few opportunities to ever see Alan in person compete (Monroe Tri). It was collectively the worst behaved Joanie I had ever seen 3 consecutive days in a row and it was just enough to destroy me emotionally and physically. Alan kicked butt and was amazing to watch, so I don’t regret my trip!
Then came the rough workout the day after Alan’s race. It was ugly. Oiselle coach Dr Lesko and Lauren Fleshman who happened to show up just as I was getting started, likely thought I was a very sad sight/joke. My entire right side was locked up from restraining Joanie on the train and sleeping on the bed at the Marco Polo Motel. I had struggle written all over me. The “feel good tune-up” was more like “standing still running all out as Kate Grace was literally doubling my distance in that amount of time”. I cut the workout from what was suppose to be 2 more sets of 800/300/400 to a single 400. And mistakenly tried a few more. Alan showed up with more crying from Joanie and I got in maybe 6 minutes from my cool down feeling the need to punch someone in the face.
And that was the last effort on the track before I flew into Sacramento to finally get a breather the day before my race. I really needed at least 1 more mom-free day and maybe I could have strung together a Portland Track Festival. Either way, I was in no place to compete at that level, but decision to race was made and I was going to at least give it my best shot. The weird part – I did zilch to take care of myself post race (complete with the largest beer sampler for $8 I have ever seen at 11pm) – and the days following the race, I had zero soreness. I was unable to use any of my speed or strength in that race. Just blah running in slow motion after gassing my engine the first 800m. It was a sad sight. By Saturday actually felt like I had pop in my legs playing frisbee. Seriously the first time all month I could remember thinking I had anything to do with the word “pop”. I can contribute most of this to the amazing 5 day vacation I was just finishing, with Alan easing my mind as super-dad during Joanie’s birthday.
Immediately following the race, I decided to take a mandatory break from running to regroup and start fresh to do things right. During this time is when my thoughts turned to learning from mistakes and owning them. I didn’t want to end on a negative note…but this is getting way too long for one blog post. Coming soon- What I learned and wisdom to share on recent life changes that did work!