Over the long and cold winter months, Ben and I have been diligently collecting the crust pieces of our bread in the freezer, anxiously awaiting "the first nice day of spring" for us to thaw out the bread, walk down to the creek, and feed the ducks. (The ducks hang out there all winter long, we see them almost every day when we run by there.) SO, the fateful day finally arrived last Tuesday where we both had an afternoon free, and the weather was gorgeous, so we walked to the store to buy one extra loaf of white bread (always good to be prepared for plenty of hungry ducks!) and were on our way! We walked to the place where we usually see the most ducks...and oddly enough, there were no ducks! A couple of geese, yes, but after Ben got bit in the achilles last year by a greedy goose, we don't like them anymore. Not about to give up on our quest, we started walking further down the path in search of ducks. Long story (and walk!) short, we traversed a lot of ground, but only found two pairs of ducks, both of which hardly seemed hungry. It was a sorry walk home, the two of us, with our bags of bread still full. At least it still was a lovely day, and it was nice to spend some quality time with my hubby despite finding no ducks to feed.
For some reason or another, this experience reminded me of my first couple of races this season. I had high expectations, interrupted by slight disappointments, followed by the positive realization that things really aren't so bad after all...allow me to explain...
So my first race was the Grand Blue Road Mile in Des Moines on Tuesday the 26th of April. I was very excited for this, because road miles tend to be either flat or downhill and fast...however, in an unfortunate turn of events, the race course was reversed. I guess the biggest sponsor of the race, Blue Cross Blue Shield, asked for the finish line to be located on their own front lawn...which so happens to be at the top of the hill we were originally planning to run down. To add to the fun, the wind was cooperating splendidly. With the old course. So basically, we were to run UPhill, AGAINST a pretty steady wind. This race was living up to its name...Grand indeed. The nice thing about racing in less than ideal conditions though, is everybody is dealt the same hand. We raced like we would anything else, although the winning time this year was about 11 seconds slower than last year's. As for results I came out 5th, in a time I'd much rather not mention (ha!). I was hoping to be a bit higher up there, but I felt good for my first race and it was a pretty close finish, so I was content. Just like the duck feeding episode, I came in hoping for the best, had some minor setbacks to deal with, but came out more ready for my next race, and grateful to have my husband and parents there to watch, some great friends to race with, and even my good friend Molly Beckwith (who trains in Indiana) got to ride home with me to Minneapolis to hang out for a couple days before we made the trip back down to Des Moines to run at the Drake Relays together!
That transitions me perfectly into the next race, the Drake Relays Special 1500m on the track. Lemme tell you something about this race, it was stacked. The start list included big names like Jenny Simpson (formerly Barringer, also a former Olympian), Treniere Clement (several time US champ) Lauren Hagens (returning champ of Drake Relays 1500), Sarah Bowman (ran like 4:05 in the 1500 in 09), Heidi Dahl (runner up at US indoors this year in the mile), my amazing runner of a teammate Gabriele Anderson (3rd at US indoors in the mile), my friend Molly Beckeith, (who probably wouldn't even call herself a 1500 runner yet but is ON FIRE right now she is running so well) and well, there were more, but you get the picture. In my head I was thinking this was the perfect setup for a PR race for me, just get in there, try to stay in there, and give it all I had. For some reason or another though, once that gun went off, I felt a little like I was in la-la land. I wan't mentally focused, the race felt much too long, but then suddenly it was over. I came out with a time of 4:17, but placed 6th, and was pretty bummed as I walked off the track. But as I settled down, yet again the positive realization came to me that my time is only 2 seconds off from my PR, and it was about 5 seconds faster than my opener at the Drake Relays last year. As my mom would say, that's nothing to sneeze at!
While everything isn't going as perfectly as it would in my wildest dreams right now, I am happy to know I am starting out in a much better place than I was a year ago, and in running, improvement of any kind is always welcome. I'm taking these things in stride as I approach next week, which will also be a big one for me for racing! Thursday night I am running in one of my all-time favorite races, the TC-1 mile, which just so happens to also double as the road 1-mile USA Championships. Should be a great race, I can pretty much guarantee the course won't be switched to run up a big hill, and the home crowd will surely be wonderful! I think I even have some Apple Valley High School distance runners that I coach coming out to cheer me on.
Next on the docket: CHINA. Yeah, nothing to sneeze at there either, huh? I just received a text from my agent yesterday that there might be a spot opening up for an 800m race in the Shanghai Diamond League meet. For those of you who aren't familiar, a diamond league meet is pretty much a HUGE deal, an opportunity I would be stupid to pass up. Even though it's not the best timing to go, I decided to take the risk, so after I race Thursday night, I will fly out early Friday morning, the trip in total will be about 17 hours to Shanghai, but with the time change included I will arrive mid-afternoon Saturday, the race is on Sunday, and then we'll turn it back around to come home Monday. The even funnier thing to picture is leaving China Monday afternoon, traveling 19 hours with connections, etc, but still arriving home on Monday evening our time...that'll make for a long "day"...haha. I joke now, but hopefully despite the travel all my ducks will be a) present, b) in line, and c) hungry (so to speak) to make the trip worth it!