As usual, I’m long overdue to knock out a blog update!
So first order of business, let’s talk about USA’s:
I don’t know what it is, but the week leading up to any Outdoor US Championship is always a roller coaster for me. I think it must be that I’m on the edge, knowing I put a year’s worth of time, energy, and hard work into something that will ultimately come and go in a few shorts days’ time, and when it’s over, that’s it. Done. Finito.
This is a concept that is hard to grasp for me especially, because I believe I have been one of the most consistent runners in the ‘middle-to-upper’ echelon of US Middle Distance running, but have failed to put it all together when it ‘really counts’ just yet.
This year was no exception, I found myself blowing off steam at my husband (sorry Ben!) one day, over some strawberries he left in the sink, and crying over just about anything.
In the past, leading into the US Championships or the Trials, I’ve had a slight sense of impending doom, because I felt I wasn’t quite ready yet. Maybe I didn’t run a standard that I wanted to hit before coming in, or maybe I’m thinking back to the days that I could have worked harder, but didn’t. It’s scary to toe the line when you know you aren’t 100% ready, because usually in this country, it takes your 100%, plus a little extra somethin-somethin, to get you on a World Champs team.
This year I thankfully felt ready. It was a whole different kind of pressure and excitement leading into USA’s, because I believed I had a legitimate shot at making the team. I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in, hands down. Even without having run the A-standard yet, I felt confident I could run it given some good competition. I still was riding that range of emotions, but this year the underlying factor behind it was “what if I DO?” rather than “what if I don’t?” Either way, it’s always a question mark, especially when there are 3 rounds of the women’s 800m where anything could happen.
“Anything” did happen in the 2010 US Outdoor Championships the last time it was held at Drake University. I got tripped from behind with 200m to go in the prelim round. Officials called it ‘incidental’ and refused to reinstate me into the semi-final race despite the fact that I was leading the field when I got clipped down. Coming back to Drake for USA’s this year was a little bit of a grudge match for me, though I tried to think of it more as a redemption round instead.
Here's a couple throwback photo's from my 'incidental' fall-
The trip down to Des Moines was great. I got to drive down with my teammates and wonderful friends, Jamie Cheever (steeplechase stud), and Meghan Peyton (10K extraordinaire). ADDED BONUS, I got to bring my dog, Ricky, along for the adventure!
Here's Ricky living it up on the car ride down, and lounging at our hotel:
I think I honestly had the most nerves going into the first round of the 800m, not because I wasn’t confident, but you have the most to lose, so to speak, if something goes wrong there. I got out mid-pack, made a move to get into a better ‘striking position’ on the home stretch before 400m, and then worked the last lap, battling to the line and finishing 4th, by a heartbeat. Technically top 3 make it automatically, but I tied for the first fastest qualifier by time, and lived to see another day in Des Moines!
Photos from Prelims:
If prelims are where you have the most to lose, semi-finals are where you have the most to gain in my opinion. Do well in the semi-final, and you punch your ticket to the final, and thus have an opportunity to make the team. Once you MAKE the final, anything can happen, and you have the right to put it all out on the track and walk off content no matter what.
Before the semi-final, my prayer was simply for God to invest in me. He certainly has invested a lot in me already, I’m fully aware, but I asked for Him to fill me with His strength, his courage, and freedom, so that I might be able to act as a mirror, reflecting His good work through my performance, and glorifying His name. And as with every gift He provides, I prayed that He would give me the courage and the motivation to offer it all up to Him, rather than absorbing all the credit as my own.
The semi-finals presented a different set of challenges, because there were no time qualifiers. To make it to the final, you must be top 4, period. After the first round, the take-away I got was that I didn’t like having to do extra work to get around people, so I asked my coach, “would it be ok with you if I got out harder?” He replied, “as long as you’re ok with the possibility that you will be leading, yes.” He turned out to be exactly right, I got out to a better start, and found myself confidently running in the lead position, and kept it, for nearly all the race. I held everyone off except Brenda Martinez (total stud) to the line, and just to show how close these qualifying rounds are, I was 2nd in 2:00.51, Geena Gall was 3rd in 2:00.53, and Laura Roesler was 4th in 2:00.54. This was one of the best races of my life, and I’m so thankful that God showed up in such a big way for me.
After semi’s, there was a day of rest, and then comes the final. The cool/frustrating thing about a final, is that what you did to get there doesn’t matter. I was ranked 3rd overall coming out of the semi’s, but it would take a top three finish to make the team. Given my strategy of running from the front and holding off competitors worked so well in semi’s, this was the plan going in to finals. I executed, as planned, well through 500m, but then unfortunately didn’t feel as good as I did the last time around, and was unable to drive home the last 300m like I would need. Brenda Martinez started to make her move there, and actually said “Come on Heather, let’s go!” IN THE RACE (amazing!), and I tried so hard to move with her, but ended up finishing 6th, running 2:00.68. I’d like to think if I had another opportunity to run that exact same race, maybe with a slightly different strategy, I would have made the team...but at least I know I made myself open to possibilities and vulnerabilities, and the outcome was a mix of them both.
It’s always disappointing to miss making the time by a little over a second, but coming away from this meet, I am thankful. This year was by far my best performance at an outdoor championship, all around. Especially running 2:00.51 and 2:00.68 two days apart (knowing I’ve only broken through 2:01 once in my life before for my PR of 2:00.41), is a signal to me that I am ready to dip under 2:00, a conquest I have been on for quite some time now. I am grateful because I did receive SO much support from friends, family, and fans, and feel I made my presence known, displaying the potential I’ve always believed I had.
I walked away happy, healthy, humbled, and hungry for more, and that is a blessing.
SPECIAL THANKS TO BECKY MILLER- THE ACTION PHOTOGRAPHER QUEEN!