Stanford Invite 2016

Here I sit on my couch looking back on Friday night, the 2016 Stanford Invite. I went down to Stanford to run a 5000m, a race that last year gave me a lot of trouble. New year, new race plan, and lots of excitement to get back on the track.

Leading up to the race was challenging. Andrea and I were heading down together and hoping to maximize our time on the outdoor track in Toronto. As spring arrived in Toronto it seemed so did the cold and slippery weather. That meant back on the indoor track, not the ideal place to do a big workout 10 days out from your season opener. But you make the best of the weather that’s totally out of your control.

IMG_9287We headed down and we were greeted with warm weather and little wind. Ideal racing conditions for a 5000m. On the topic of things in your control and out of your control, is the topic of heat seeding. Unfortunately Thursday morning I woke up to find out that I was in the 2nd section, not the fastest section. I emailed my coach and left my fate up to the running gods.

Later in the day Andrea and I headed over to Stanford to pick up our race packages. At that point I still had not heard anything about whether or not I had been moved to the fastest section, and some how I still remained calm; but I won’t deny that I had different race strategies playing out in my head.

Instead of warming up at the very busy Cobb Track we headed over to the Menlo College to do a pre-race workout. While we were running the local, Woodside middle school kids were there working out as well. I had the fortune to sit down , have dinner and a ‘fireside chat’ after my workout with these kids. We chatted about running and my journey, plus it’s a great way to keep you distracted when you’re really nervous for a race. Just before I gave my presentation I got the great news that I had been moved to the fastest heat (thank you Stanford and running gods).

Friday was race day. It was (probably) typical Palo Alto weather, no wind and warm weather. But I should have remembered that in Northern California it gets cool in the evenings. Andrea and I did a little shakeout midday, we made some really yummy lunch together, and we tried to stay calm. We also tried to go for coffee in Woodside Friday afternoon but everywhere we went it seemed like their  espresso machine was broken or out of service! (How do people survive?! lol).

As we headed to the track in the evening both Andrea and I were really nervous, and we were each trying to talk each other off the ledge. Thankfully Andrea has much more experience the 5000m and shared her wisdom. My only other experience was Payton Jordan in 2015 where I developed a very ouchy stitch; I really was scared to have the same thing happen.

Warming up for the 5000m I had a stitch on my left side. Seriously?! Seriously?! I tried to put it out of my mind and stretch it out but it wasn’t easy. I did manage to get it settled before the race thankfully.

While warming up I noticed that I wasn’t sweating. Actually, I was cold. I should have done a better job at looking at the weather before I started, but I was so excited to race in the Oiselle bra top and briefs. When I stripped to walk out on to the track to do strides, I thought ‘oh no, it’s cold.’ Well it couldn’t be as cold as it was a XC nationals!

Strides done I was hip #20, starting way out on the second start line on the bend. And then I was standing beside my teammate, Andrea, with the pace bunnies on my other side, quickly realizing I was actually I was in the best possible spot! All I had to do when the gun went off was tuck behind the pace girls, and I did.

My race plan was to sit in somewhere between 4th and 6th. With my experienceIMG_9288 from last year, some great last-minute advice from Canadian 5000m superstar Jess O’Connell, I knew somewhere between the 3000 and 4000 things were going to get tough, but hopefully not ugly.

And it did get tough around 3400m, you have a mile to go, you’re not quite out of the woods yet and it’s a little far to start kicking. I sat in and focused on staying with that lead pack.

IMG_9289I remained with the leaders until about 400m to go. Then the wheels started to fall off a little. I was at 14:15 with one lap to go. In my head, I thought I can run a 70s lap and make Olympic standard, that’s easy peasy. My legs and brain had two different ideas about how I felt. I really fell apart with about 250m to go but I wasn’t giving up.

Yup, I missed Olympic Standard. And as much as I am disappointed I also can’t but look to see the amazing positives of my race. It’s the best season opener I’ve ever had. I ran a strong 5000m, especially compared to last year’s debut. I took 27 seconds off my previous personal best. With a final time of 15:35.45.

I know there is room for improvement and I’m going to keep working hard. I have a month of training before it is back to the oval office, and I’m going to maximize that month of training to the best of my abilities.

I have to say thanks to the Lount-Pretre family for hosting Andrea and I. I had aIMG_9286 blast hanging out with them, hanging out with their track team, and generally being lazy around their house before the race. Plus they showed up at the finish line with beautiful flowers and a Minion backpack (totally going to be my new spike bag!)

Flurries are falling outside my window. I miss California but I’m so thankful to be home, surrounded by my support team, and my amazing training partners. And really the sun and warm weather will come.