Sunday, July 10, 2011

From Ireland, to Belgium, and soon to be Italy!

Considering how little I have done in the past week, it is slightly shameful that I haven't updated my blog until now...But, at the same time I would argue that doing nothing has been just exactly what I've been needing for awhile.

Rewinding just a bit, I will pick up where I left off in my last blog, the 1500m race in Cork, Ireland! Well, I was very pleased with the way the race went. Because I had just gotten across the pond a couple days prior to the race, and not 100% adjusted to the new time zone, I took a conservative approach to the race, telling myself I will run my own race, and not let other people influence me too much. I calculated out the splits I would need to run for a 1-second PR, and decided I would just try to run like clockwork, staying as close as I can to those split times. Well, I did just that, ran a tiny personal best of 4:15.11, and felt amazing doing it. Had I known I was going to feel so good already, I would have tried to get up a little higher in the race, because after finishing that one, I had a feeling of complete certainty that I can be even faster than that next time. It was very encouraging, and fun to run a personal best right off the plane. I am working on trying to get at least one more 1500m race in Europe to really see what I'm made of in that event right now. Beyond that, I have decided it is so nice to switch things up and run other events. Jumping in a 1500 after some disappointing 800 races gave me some perspective, and the pace being just a bit slower, made me feel really relaxed out there.

Next on the agenda after Cork was flying to Brussels, Belgium, and then taking a short train ride over to Leuven, Belgium. I've been based here for a week now, and as I mentioned earlier, haven't done a whole lot of anything. When we first got here, it took some time to settle into the big ol' house I am staying in (this house, by the way, is crazy! It has like 5 stories, with two bedrooms on each floor, winding up and up the stairs seemingly forever. We've got one community kitchen downstairs, one community bathroom for the 6 of us living here, and things are working out pretty well). The house is a bit of a distance from the track, some nice running trails, the grocery store, and city center (basically all the places I might go here), so the first day a bunch of us went to rent some bikes to get around. Turned out to be a great idea! Last year, I walked sooo much back and forth from the track and stuff, these bikes are really saving my legs from some extra miles! Other than that, we've made it a point to take as long as humanly possible to go to the track, run, make breakfast and shower in the morning, so by the time we're done with all the essential items of the day, it is usually well past noon. The rest of the days have been filled with reading books, going on some bike rides, trying to keep in touch with people from home (Internet was a bit sketchy for the first few days, had to bike into the city center to get the free McDonald's wifi!), and going out to buy ingredients, and make fun dinners. It's a lifestyle I'm not accustomed to, and sometimes get bored, but I also appreciate it so much and can see the value in de-stressing my life, enjoying the company of the other athletes here in my same position, and focusing on what I came here to do: run well.

Speaking of running, I competed in my second European race yesterday, in Kortijk, Belgium. We took the train from Leuven over there, had some of the meet people pick us up at the train station and take us right to the track, the trip itself took around two hours, so I was a bit nervous about feeling flat by the time we got there, but I went into this windy race feeling alright, and excited to put myself to the test once again. From the gun, I jumped right into the lead, on the tail of the rabbit, who did nothing wrong! Yaaay! She dropped out around 500m into the race, and then it was just me and the wind, and close footsteps behind me, making me feel like I was running for my life. I just barely managed to pull out the win, which again, was very encouraging because as far as I can remember, this is my first professional win! At this level, it is quite a bit tougher to pull that off I have realized.. My race time was pretty slow, around 2:03 mid, but with the wind in basically a solo effort, I was happy, and I got some prize money and chocolates for a prize to top off the fun!

After we got back, I had a great night going out to eat with the ladies of my house here (Gabe, Katie Follett, Julie Culley, Annick Lamar). The restaurant we went to had an odd requirement that you HAD to order a beverage, so I got a "Shirley Temple"...aka sprite and cherry juice. This was a favorite drink of mine since I was a kid and though I was the only one at the table without a glass of wine, I wasn't teased too much over my juvenile taste in drinks. We toasted to better races to come, to meeting and spending time with great people who are all on similar tracks (no pun intended...well, kind of I guess pun intended I guess!), and called it a night.

Next up, I fly to Italy on Tuesday, will race in Nuoro, Italy on Wednesday, and then hopefully get in one or two more Italy races before I head home on the 20th! This trip is going fast, but slow at the same time, but I am doing my best to enjoy it while it lasts, make the most of it, and have no regrets in my races. So far, so good!

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