I was excited and nervous as race weekend approached. The week before the race, my knee began giving me some problems when running, and the hamstring continued to give me grief as well. I was not sure how my legs would hold up for the race, but I was determined to try. Thomas Kipp gave me a “tune up” the day before we flew out. He reassured me that it was all muscular, and that I was not going to injure myself if I just pushed through the pain.
The travel to Sacramento was uneventful. I followed the nutrition plan. I rested. I felt cautiously optimistic. Race morning, the weather was near perfect with temps in the low 40s. I stayed on the shuttle bus for about 30 min after arriving to the start to rest my legs and stay warm. I got off the bus about 30 min prior to the start to adjust to the outside temp and warm up my legs.
The race began right on time. I did not see the other Team FTC athletes prior to the start, but I knew they were up ahead. I made it to the start about 2 min after the race had officially started, as there were thousands of runners and no corrals other than for the elite runners. The first few miles were extremely crowded! I had never been so crowded in any of the other races I had done. I was elbowed and pushed a few times. My pace was determined by those around me as I could not get around anyone. Almost immediately, my knee and hamstring started acting up. I reminded myself that Thomas said I wasn’t going to really injure myself, so I ignored them and “accepted that challenge” (as Enoch had coached me to do ). There were lots of hills during the first half of the course. I followed Enoch’s advice to keep same effort not same pace, and was able to get around some of the other runners on those hills. I mentally broke the race into segments based on the timing mats (10k, half, 20 mi). I zoned out mentally and did not pay attention to pace other than at the mile splits. I ran based on feel, slowing when my legs acted up and speeding when they felt better. I was holding fairly consistently between 830-845 for the first 16 miles. I don’t remember much of the specifics about the race other than realizing at mile 17 (after stopping the first of 3 times to refill my water bottles), if I could just hold a “recovery run” pace of under 930, I would BQ…and if I could push it a bit faster than recovery pace, I could break 3:55. I began feeling hopeful that I could really actually do this. I hit mile 20, and the legs were really giving me grief. I again did the math in my head and told myself I could BQ if I could just keep it under 10s. At mile 22, the 352 pace group caught up with me. I tried to speed up and stay with them, but my legs were not having it. I reminded myself I didn’t need a 3:52 and to just do the best I could, keeping in the mid 9s. A couple of miles later, I rounded a corner and realized I was on L street. I had run this street with Laura the day before and knew I was almost there! I knew the finish was off of 8th. I began counting down the blocks…19th, 18th..17th…. Before I knew it my watch chimed mile 26. I realized at that point I could break 3:55 if I hurried. I picked up the pace to sub-8 and crossed the finish in 3:54:40. A new PR…and finally BQ!! And there was Coach waiting for me! With the amazing news that he qualified for the Olympic Trials!