The marketing and branding surrounding this event, or shall we say simply, the HYPE made me think that I wasn’t going to enjoy this race that much because it wasn’t “serious” enough about the running.
I’m sitting in a park in Nashville, still 4 hours away from my last race of the season, THE RACE, the focus one I’ve been training for since, I guess, my last track 5k in 2012.
2012 was my senior year of college, and my last year of running for Baylor. I set PRs in everything from the 800 to the 5k that year, and it was hard to feel too bad about choking in the final race of the year at regionals. You’ll get ’em next year, champ. I trotted up to Colorado for my summer job as a camp counselor and focused on 2013.
Injuries always suck, but the one I got in Colorado that dragged through fall was the worst I’d faced. I didn’t handle it too well (you can read all about it and the resulting mental breakdown in the archives here though … Yay writing) but suffice it to say, I didn’t do a lot of running that next year. In fact, I didn’t run a step for six months. When I came back, at the urging of a wisened running coach who visited the store where I worked, the first 10 minute jogs around the Twin Lakes golf course in Waco were almost surreal. I felt like myself again.
I started running with my cross country team again, although I was the old, weird one who kept showing up even though she was in grad school.
The next year, I finished school and moved home, and Steve Sisson at Rogue Athletic Club in Austin let me on his team. I was majorly outclassed for my fitness, coming off six months of 35 miles per week, but my stale PRs and collegiate “pedigree” gave me hope that sticking around would eventually not be as weird as starting. Most of all, Steve looking me in the eye once or twice and saying “I think you can do this,” encouraged me to keep going even when it seemed dumb to me.
Everyone has to answer “why are we doing this?” Why expend so much of our time, energy, our money, our resources, and our hearts in this sport?
I used to think that if I was better at running, my choice to keep doing it would somehow validate it. “Yes… But she’s an All-American! See? It’s not a waste of time. You can put that on a resume.” I never got one of those spots. Next, I thought being a pro would validate it. Then I made it on Rogue AC, and I still have to ask why I’m doing this. I’m not on our sponsored team, so there is another level of “pro” to achieve here, but even my teammates deal with the questions of meaning in running.
They still have to navigate being twenty something in our world, as an athlete, working or at least considering other careers, pursuing relationships, and living on their own. They’ve achieved more than me in running, but I’ve seen behind the Emerald City curtain in pro running and it’s not another world apart from what I do now. It’d be nice to achieve at a higher level, and I sure don’t know what it’s like to run at a USA championship or represent Team USA in a world meet, but at the end of the day you’re still you.
I’m 25, and I’m still running. It makes just about as much sense as it ever did. I run because I like pushing myself, and the daily successes and progress towards a goal makes me feel pretty damn good about myself. Vain as this may be, it’s the best way I can sum it up.
In 2014 my spring season consisted of a trail race and a road 5k where I barely broke 18:00. The main wins that year were showing up every day and not quitting in the face of discouragement.
I got hurt last fall, and you know, married, so I guess that was a good enough distraction. My first run back was on the honeymoon, and I haven’t missed a day (that I wanted to run) since then. I’ve raced one each of a road 5k, a half marathon, a 1500, a mile, a 10k, a trail race, and a 3k, and with the exception of the 10k have been really happy with my progress. My fitness has taken a seemingly impossible amount of time to return, but I’m consistent, healthy, and having fun, so it’s going as well as I can ask.
This year is the first year I’ve run anything close to a track season since 2012. And hey, it’s going pretty well. I PR’d in the half marathon and ran a 4:34 in the 1500. Considering I never broke 4:30 in the 1500 until senior year, I was happy to even be in striking distance this year.
So that’s why I’ve traveled to Nashville – pro title be damned, I’m here because I’ve trained for this and I belong. We all are.
Behold, Fall 2013:
1. Rode my mountain bike a lot
The sport of mountain biking got the most love from me this semester. I went all-in, traveling and competing with my school’s cycling club to seven USA Cycling collegiate races. We had a blast camping and competing at venues across the state against other collegiate teams.
I put all my focus on biking this fall because it’s my last semester at Baylor and my last chance to be a member of the school’s team. Since I don’t have any NCAA eligibility anymore, and no urgent running goals other than get back into training, I figured this was a good time and maybe the only time to really get some good riding in before I make running everything again.
I freaking loved this season! Biking is obviously much lower-key than NCAA Track and Field, and while I took the races seriously I didn’t have any outside pressure to perform. Mountain biking is similar to running in that you have to stay mentally engaged, it challenges you aerobically, and you get to be outside competing in beautiful places. But it’s different because the fittest girl doesn’t always win! It’s also about finesse – your technical skills on the trail can take you a lot further than interval training. My technical skills are MUCH better than last year though, after all my summer practice in Austin, and it was really satisfying to actually be able to use my aerobic fitness and push myself in a race. It was great to try to work into a new sport, where a different required skill set challenged me in new ways.
I crashed every race weekend at least once, but I got up and finished all the races. It wasn’t too bad, and wearing my scrapes and bruises to class the next few days after a race always made me feel so hardcore.
I was happy with the season – I got 2nd or 3rd in all my races, depending who showed up. It was a huge improvement from last year, and I ended up qualifying for and getting to race at collegiate nationals in North Carolina! I got 45th/80 there, which I am proud of because one year ago I was 100% brand new to this sport.
2. Baylor Cycling Club: a new athletic and leadership experience
As much pride as I drew from being an athlete at Baylor for five years, I have to say people in the cycling club and other club sports are the real “student-athletes” on campus. The NCAA athlete experience was fantastic at Baylor and I wouldn’t change it. We were treated very well and our coaches had high expectations from us – often I felt like a pro athlete who did school on the side. Club athletes on the other hand have to run the team themselves, without the help of athletic scholarships, coaches, and an entire athletic department dedicated to their success. They organize the club, buy equipment, plan trips, register for races, host competitions, raise funds, participate in the community, keep up with their studies, and most importantly, COMPETE year-round.
I’ve been in the club since Fall 2012, and became an officer last spring. It’s really cool to have been part of the leadership, and see how the student leadership has matured, grown the club, and shaped it into an organization that provides so much fun and so many opportunities for its members.
3. Running is still #1 in my heart and my future plans
I’ve heard a few folks ask me if I’m still running, or just mountain biking now.
My response to this is Think I give up that easy!? But I guess I haven’t been vocal enough about my goals. Or I can just blame Facebook (which is ironic because I’m still not actively using the site right now), because I think I’ve been tagged in a bunch of biking photos this semester. Guess I need to start sending selfies from 6:30 a.m. practice at Cottonwood. Sorry, I know, Facebook is the easiest way to get this gestalt idea of how people’s lives are going, and I can see how my profile would be misleading.
But still. No. Just no. I still run. I still love running. I still want to run for a post-collegiate team. I still train. I’ve done a few races this fall.
This semester I’ve trained with my old XC team, and did a meet with them (the HBU Invite, ran an XC 5k in 17:30 woohoo). Feeling my fitness returning after 6 months off due to injury last school year is simply exhilarating. I’m experiencing the purity of running, re-discovering the joy that it is to feel my legs turn over, to have to dig again, and to be able to open up and run uninhibited by nagging pain or heavy legs. I can feel my talent asking to be unleashed, running these workouts and races months earlier than I thought I’d be able to. It’s weird and awesome and I love it.
4. I’m graduating grad school in December!
I love my school and my faculty but I’m ready to be done! And so is my bank account. Hoo boy. I am experiencing the typical pre-grad anxiety of oh em gee there is a lot to do before December, but whenever things get too bad I can always count on a run to bring me back to feeling alright. Something about that physical effort just pushes all the other thoughts out of your brain. This semester, more than any other in the past, I’ve experienced running as a drug that gives me a high, and an escape from my own negativity.
With this master’s degree, I will become the most educated child in my family. This is a total joke because my siblings are all quite brainy (engineer, special ed teacher / 4.0 UT grad, and a legit accountant-in-training) and I’m pretty sure they’re going to be more well-read, well-written, and/or well-paid than me in the future. Naturally, I’m planning to milk it for all its worth over Christmas.
WHAT’S NEXT? : the question of the hour for any soon-to-be-graduate.
In January-May I’m going to move back to Austin (hey parents hey), work a part-time job, and visit / interview with the post-collegiate running teams I’m looking at. I’ve had conversations with a few coaches, but most of them asked me to visit before we discussed anything serious. Since I spent all fall cavorting around to my mountain bike races, and most of the team contracts begin in June, I decided to do visits in the spring with the goal of joining a team in the summer.
TL; DR: This fall, I rode my mountain bike, got back in shape as a runner, I will graduate in December, and move to Austin in January.
Humans are funny. We attribute our successes to our own awesomeness rather than other people or good luck or favorable circumstances. Example: last night I was looking at Facebook pictures from my junior year of college. I had redshirted that track season and ran a PR of 16:39 at our home meet’s 5K. Yeah, Cate ran a 16:39, pretty good time, huh?
But I’d pretty much forgot that I had two teammates, Sam and Robyn, pace me for half the race! Two years later, I have a fresh understanding of what it meant for them to run that race with me. In 2011, in my mind, I was strong. I could run 16:39 anywhere, Sam and Robyn just happened to be around that day. But now looking back I know there’s no way I could have run that time without them.
It was just one more thing they did as great teammates. Sure, tempo-ing a 3k probably fit into their training/racing schedule at the time, but they didn’t have to run with me. They did it selflessly, and loyally.
They were probably the two gals I ran the most miles with throughout my time at Baylor, offering physical support and emotional support – advising me when to get serious and when to relax, listening to me rant and rave about everything under the sun, waiting for me at bathroom stops, sharing about their lives and feelings with me to fill the space and grow closer mile after mile.
Both Sam and Robyn are done with Baylor now, onto bigger and better things, and not many days go by without me missing them. Fortunately they are both great at taking initiative to stay in touch – SP is a modern-day pen pal and Robyn is a super Skype user.
So go ahead, take all the credit you deserve for your own accomplishments – I don’t deserve a lot. I could write a post like this for nearly every one of my teammates, too. Yes I’m getting nostalgic before I’ve even left Baylor. But y’all rock.
When I read other people’s blogs, I’m often frustrated at their lack of transparency or inability to tell the whole story, either from discretion or mere laziness. So, I figure if you’re on my blog, you might want the update on running rather than trying to cobble it together from Google, TFRRS and Facebook. Maybe you’re not all as curious or voyeuristic about other runners as I am, but if you are, read on.
The wall o’ text below can be summed up here:
- January – May: Yay track season! PRs all around!
- June – July: Tentative return to running
- August – October: Heel pain, ow. Oh, stress fracture.
- November – December: Biking and swimming galore. Am I ever going to run again?!
Last time I really wrote about this was after the 2011 cross country season. I had plantar fasciitis but I somehow managed to keep some semblance of running shape.
After two weeks off, the PF got better and I hit a really nice segment of training through Christmas break. I ran a full indoor season, slightly upping my max-ever mileage to 60 miles/week. Some race weeks were less than that. I PR’d by a little bit in the mile (4:45), 3k (9:30), and 1200 of the DMR (3:25). Not stellar but pleasing. The trip to NYC was a highlight, in terms of running fast and having fun away from school with my teammates. Running was fun again. All systems go.
Spring break was fantastic. I spent a week roaming the trails of Austin and the shows of SXSW, and had time to finish applying for summer jobs. At a Mumford and Sons concert, my right foot started to hurt, but I figured it was probably because I had worn Nike Frees and been on my feet a long time. The show was amazing, by the way.
The rest of the spring was one of those seasons you long for. Even when I screwed up on the little things, I was having great workouts and long runs. Sometimes my arches hurt, but very mildly. I kept doing massages, icing, stretching, strengthening and all the other PT that PF mandates. The miles kept piling up in my logbook, accrued from chilly, early long runs with teammates, fresh tempos, before-class morning shakeouts, satisfying track days, and carefree afternoon doubles in the shade-dappled trails of Cameron Park.
I raced about every other weekend, and finally conquered my fear of doubling (so irrational). I didn’t race well in front of my home crowd at Texas Relays, but thanks to Stanford Magic a week later I was able to drop a nice 5k PR of 16:13. Two weeks later I PR’d in the 1500 (4:24) at our home meet. I PR’d at Drake in the 1600 leg of a DMR (4:43) and even grabbed an 800 PR on a 4×8 that night (2:10).
I wish I would have blogged during this time of my life, but I was probably too busy enjoying it ;)
Naturally, I had high hopes for the Big 12 Champs in Manhattan, Kansas in May. But for whatever reason, overconfidence, underconfidence, lack of prep, I ran 16:44 in the 5k there for 6th. The race had gone out fast thanks to Natosha Rogers (who would later place freaking 2nd in the 10k at the USA Olympic Trials), and after I dropped off the lead pack at the halfway point, I didn’t hold it together well. I knew dropping off would mean I would do poorly… and it did. Sometimes I probably shouldn’t think so much.
The last race of my season was the 5k at the NCAA Championships West Preliminary Round. They said to quit calling it “regionals,” but it’s not quite making it to nationals. What do they call it? One of my coaches said this…
(@jlcap16) May 21, 2012
Anyway, my time from Stanford ranked me 25th in the region, and the top 12 advanced to nationals. Two years before, I’d ran the 5k on a whim at “half nats” and placed 19th when I’d been ranked 46th. It was at the Univ. of Texas in Austin both years, and in 2010 the heat had majorly affected the race. We all ran slow that year and I’d finished strong. I was expecting to be able to do the same in 2012. But some talented gals kicked us off this year with a 5:05 starting mile, and I was toast. Once I dropped off the pack, I completely gave up and proceeded to run the most embarrassing race of my career, finishing 17:51 for last in my heat. Giving up displays a vast lack of character that I’m not proud of and I deeply regret that was my last race of 2012. My coach was easier on me than I was, commending me for going out hard, but I knew inside that even being tired from that effort could not excuse giving up the way I did.
After track season, I took a two week break. I cooked a lot, ate junk food and didn’t sleep enough, and my body was like KTHANX and tacked on 10 lbs. People don’t believe me when I say this, but it’s true. I ran a little in June, following a typical buildup of running every other day, then working back in easy runs every day. My right foot hurt like crazy, plantar’s back in full force. But I was lazy with stretching and icing, so it was probably just kind of mad at me.
Not to worry, I landed a sweet month-long gig working at a high school running camp in Colorado. It was a dream job, as long as your dream was to go to running camp. I loved it, and working with the other counselors and high school kids was a blast. I’d never spent time in Colorado before, and it was every bit as beautiful as the facebook pictures of my friends showed me. It inspired me to be more outdoorsy.
Running at camp was pretty nice. Although altitude sucked, we ran twice a day so it was easy to get mileage. We had time built in for icing and recovery, so I was able to get my foot under control. It would hurt while warming up but not during the runs, so I patted myself on the back and kept going. The highlight of this month was finishing up the last 30 minutes of a long run by myself on the ridge trail by Western State’s campus in Gunnison. I was listening to “Winter Winds” from Mumford and Sons and looking out across the valley, though I was breathing pretty hard, I felt really good. I ran 55 miles that week, my season high.
One of the last days at camp we did a hilly run to Emerald Lake from Mt. Crested Butte, and my right heel was never the same again. It hurt so much to walk the rest of the day. From there and through August, runs were hit and miss. Sometimes it would be ok, but most of the time it hurt. I didn’t stop running entirely because I was still on vacation in Colorado and we wanted to run cool places. I got about 30 miles a week that month.
I thought once I got back to Baylor and got with the athletic trainers, I could get it under control. I tried a four mile tempo the first day back, and couldn’t walk the rest of the day. Many references were made to last fall’s bout with plantar’s and how I was able to mostly overcome that. The solution there was time off, so I did that. But even after 10 days off it still hurt, so I picked up running again. Looking back, I’m not sure what we were thinking… but I remember saying, if it’s going to hurt anyway, I might as well have the fun of running.
We did Airrosti and all the normal PT stuff you can do for PF but my heel just wouldn’t stop hurting. Some days it would be better, though, which encouraged us enough to keep trying. I averaged 26 miles a week in September. In October I finally got an x ray. Nothing showed, so I got a cortisone shot. It didn’t work, so we went to an MRI. I guess we’d put it off because those MRIs don’t come cheap. Finally on Halloween I found out it was a stress fracture! Boom.
The sense of relief was great. I was so happy to learn I wasn’t being a wuss about pain. And I had an excuse to stop running and facing pain every day! I started wearing a boot, which was great because it made walking feel a lot better. My Dr. was really cool too and let me still bike so I could work out and get to class.
However, it’s been 10.5 weeks since I ran a step and I still have heel pain. The Dr. says sometimes it just takes longer. Outside of sleeping right, eating right and not being on my feet too much, there’s not much else I can do to get this thing better. It’s become amusing how powerless I am. Not that I’m giving up, but I know God is in control and it’ll get better whenever he wants it to.