I don’t like leaving questions unanswered. One of the main reasons I decided to attend West Point was that I didn’t want to later regret turning my acceptance down. If I didn’t like it, I could always leave for a civilian school, but not vice versa; if I didn’t accept the initial offer, I couldn’t change my mind and transfer there later.
Same with running. I never want to wonder “what if” or wish I had given it one more go while I could.
When I last wrote here on Salty Running, I left off with lingering doubts about continuing my competitive career, wondering “am I good with good enough?”
But I don’t like open-ended debates, so I decided I wasn’t. I decided to keep racing, committing to giving it my best shot. This wasn’t an easy decision to make, given my limited time, resources, and energy. I was no longer at the stage in life where running could be my top priority (or even close) and had to fit in what I could around three kids, a husband who’s always gone, and a new job that ate away any extra time I had without anything else in life giving to make room. Could I make a comeback? I wanted to try and see.
Last May I ran my personal worst half marathon. I wondered if I was done, but kept training and tried to regain my competitiveness. Visiting DC a few weeks later, I was able to jump into a track workout with my old training club and coach, and being in that type of environment again definitely spurred my motivation!
The Ultimate Runner
I leveraged that by running my next race on the track, at a track meet called The Ultimate Runner in Winston-Salem, NC at the end of June and let me tell you, it was possibly the most fun, most challenging event I’ve ever run in my life! It consisted of 5 events in one afternoon: 1 mile, 400 meters, 800 meters and 100 meters on the track, followed by a 5K cross country run. Runners compete in the same heats for all the track events based off their mile time, and your score is cumulative based off your overall finish among all participants in each event. Men against women, young against old, sprinter against distance runner. It is truly a leveling event. It’s also a legit local race, with the women’s distance record held by Blake Russell and the women’s master’s by Joan Nesbitt.
I was the fastest woman in the mile, held my own (probably middle of the field) in the 400, fastest in the 800, and completely bombed the 100. I was so excited about actually racing a for-real 100 meter dash (in my running dreams I’m Usain Bolt!) that when the gun went off I had a goofy grin on my face and was clearly not in it competitively. Despite winning two events, I lost a lot of points in that 100m and only had a narrow lead going into the 5K. It was getting dark (the second lap was run by the light of mosquito repellant torches!) and I felt like things were rocky at first, but I managed to secure the lead.
In the end I was exhausted, but have to reiterate that it was an amazing challenge and having so much fun at a race was another big boost of motivation! My first track meet in probably 10 years left me excited about my running future. Carrying that momentum I stepped up my training with my sights set on the NC State 5K Championships at the end of July.
North Carolina State 5k Championship
I felt confident going in, but that unfortunately turned into yet another race with almost comical setbacks. We turned it into a family trip to Winston-Salem for the weekend. On race day, my family sat down for a picnic while I took off for my warmup. I looped back to say hi after five minutes, only to find my husband having an anaphylactic reaction to a fire ant bite. I had returned just in time to get him to ambulance!
Once he was hauled away to the ER I couldn’t possibly run, because shouldn’t I follow him to the hospital? And what was I going to do with my three children at a race almost 3 hours from home? Since the women’s elite race was about to start, I decided to stay and at least enviously watch the beginning. Luckily I bumped into another woman running that I had met at the Ultimate Runner, and her husband kindly offered to watch my kids so I could run. It was a loop course so I would run by them 4 times, I figured we had driven all the way out there, so why not leave them with a nice stranger?
While the race certainly didn’t go as well as I hoped, I focused on trying to put the dramatic events aside and just run hard on what little energy I had left. I did manage to finish in the money (barely), so didn’t completely disappoint myself, but again left feeling like the universe was against me in my attempts at returning to competitive racing.
My last few races have brought me a mid-race stop for a train crossing, forgetting my gear, and my husband getting carted off to the ER 20 minutes before a race start. Really, what could go wrong at my next race?! I’ll leave that for my recap part deux, the Twin Cities Marathon.