Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Monday in Minnesota- Tuesday, Poland.

What a whirlwind of a day, and an incredible reminder of how God is capable of blessing me beyond my wildest imagination.

I’m on board my first of three flights en route to Poland, and still working my way down from the initial high of realizing I get to represent my country at the IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships.

While it’s still fresh in my memory I want record and share with you the happenings of this awesome day, and describe where my head is at right now.

When I woke up this morning, I was thinking today was a ‘starting anew’ kind of day. I took a down week following the US Championships (meaning I had no track workouts, I just ran how I felt every day and took 2 of those days off), so today was my first workout back to prepare for my outdoor season!

I had a 30 minute threshold run on the treadmill, and was lucky enough to coordinate with my friend Elizabeth to meet at Lifetime Fitness for some company on the treadmill. We got more fun than we bargained for, as two of my teammates Ben Sathre and Jon Peterson also showed up midway and joined our ‘treadmill party’.

I joked that it is weird to come back to workouts even after just a week off, like I expect to be out of shape, but then the workout went really well. Warm-up to cool-down it was a solid 10-mile day, and I was stretching out on a mat waiting for Jon to finish his run, as we planned to lift weights together too.

My phone started ringing from a GA number I didn’t recognize, so I silenced the call (thinking I didn’t want to be that obnoxious girl talking on her phone at the gym). Figured whoever it was, they could leave a message, if it was important.

After what seemed like a long time following the call, my voicemail notification pinged. Curious as to who would leave such a long message, I decided to just listen to it right there.

At some point I will have to re-listen to it, because all I remember catching were bits and pieces once I realized the purpose of the call...

“Sandy Snow from USATF...” - “Mary Cain withdrew...” - “You are the first alternate...” - “...Get you on a plane...”

I probably also didn’t quite hear the whole message because about halfway through I was already bolting back to the bay of treadmills, jumping up and down with my phone to my ear. My teammates Jon and Ben both gave me quizzical looks before I half-squealed: “I GET TO GO TO WORLDS!” I quickly explained what I knew as they celebrated with me mid-run, and Jon even called out to everyone in earshot, “She’s going to Worlds! She’s going to Worlds, people!” (Ironic how I didn’t answer my phone because I didn’t want to be obnoxious and then moments later I’m totally cool with making a scene.)

I quickly dialed back to Sandy- she informed me that the spot is in fact mine if I want it, but I will have to leave very soon to get out there ASAP, and my Team USA gear would be waiting for me in Poland since there’s not time to send it to me here in MN. (MY TEAM USA GEAR- Wohoo!) She said she’d be in touch with my agent, Ray Flynn, to arrange flights, and to get ready!

During this call, I’m giddy, but also couldn’t help but laugh at the melodramatic feelings I had towards going through Team USA processing as ‘just the alternate’ in Albuquerque. I went to the processing area with a good friend, Molly Ludlow- formerly Beckwith, who placed 3rd in the 800m. She was also the first alternate for the Olympics of 2012 in the 800m. I think we both felt a little like the knife was being twisted in our chest to know we were so close, but not on the team.

I handed in all necessary forms ‘just in case’, but really had no hope at all that I’d get this call. All the officials were really nice as I grumbled about being the alternate, saying even if I don’t go this time, they save all my information for ‘next time’ when I make the team outright. In my self-deprecating mood at the time however, I was thinking it was a waste of time.

Re-living those feelings was the first time it dawned on me how much of an honor it is to be the alternate. I’m not just the first one ‘out’, but the first one ‘in’ if anything comes up. I was on call for the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS. How did I never see it this way?

Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely pleased with my overall performance- I ran my race, and I rallied back from mid-pack to the podium in the last 200m. I ran an altitude converted lifetime PR. In the 1500m for crying out loud!! Placing 3rd in the country is already an honor, but I did it in a relatively new event for me, and I had to recognize my success, even if it was a little bittersweet being one spot away.

Back to the moment at hand, once I finished my call with Sandy, I called my husband next (left a message because he was still outside running in the tundra- tough guy), then called my boss and friend Bekah Metzdoff of Mill City Running to let her know I’d be missing work to go to Worlds (“I’ve got good news and bad news...”).

Then, without even knowing what’s going on, my dad Face-Time called me from their vacation in Mexico just to chat, so I got to break the news to my parents right away that I won’t be here in MN when they get home because I’m going to Poland!!

From there it was a quick shower, short drive home, a brief wait to learn when my flight would take off (6:41pm today!), and then time to start packing!

My husband Ben, who had originally planned to visit an account in Iowa today for his work, decided to reschedule his trip and be home with me before I go, which was awesome. He helped me figure out what to pack, as I was seemingly in shock and very ineffective in deciding what I’d need, and what I’d probably get from my Team USA kit when I arrive.

From there, it was a mass influx of positivity via social media as the news broke. So amazing how much I heard from the running community, friends and family, all telling me congratulations, and that I deserved it.

At first, I felt a little weird about being congratulated at all. It seemed like ‘Congratulations’ was the wrong word to describe my situation? I didn’t do anything, really, and now I am going to Poland. Maybe people should just be saying, “Wow, you’re so lucky you get to go now”??

This is where it comes in handy to have such a smart husband. I told him how I was feeling about all the congratulatory messages when it felt like a submissive way to gain a spot on the team, and he said, “No, you do deserve it. You earned your spot when you fought back in that race last week.” Oh. Right. Forgot about that.

Since then I’ve been inundated with people telling me how my gutsy performance paid off, and all the years of hard work and gradual improvement have brought me to here, and that I will be a great representative for USA. I cannot thank you all enough for your support, and in this short time I already feel better about my ‘belonging’ on Team USA- a team that is arguably one of the hardest to make in the entire world.

I will continue to live in that truth, but cannot help but continue to see parallels between this wonderful opportunity and the greatest ‘free gift’ one could possibly accept- salvation. I could almost cry when I think about how I don’t necessarily deserve either of these things, but it was freely given to me just the same, by the grace of God.

And the similarities don’t stop there. The odd thing about all this is I didn’t have all last week to get excited, do specific training, or even the time to fret over competing in a world competition. Some people might view this ‘lack of control’ as a bit of a disadvantage, but given the circumstances, I truly view this is an opportunity to RUN FREELY without dependence on my own usual preparations/expectations.

Just like the freedom we receive by handing the control over to God, I feel light as air (which is rather appropriate, as I sit on a flying aircraft!) about this opportunity I face.

While I would certainly have preferred simply making the team via a top-2 performance at USA’s, I’m almost finding that this way (His way) is much better than the version I hoped for. I am learning so much more, and I am humbled by this trip as I grow closer to God, rather than possibly becoming inflated by my own accomplishment.

As I am writing, I am worried that some of you may be interpreting this to mean I am approaching this whole thing from a place of passivity- which is simply not the case. Relying on the Lord’s plan does not imply ‘lack of action’, but rather an openness for His infinite power, strength, courage, and grace to work through me. I intend to approach these races with confidence and purpose, clothed in the armor of Christ. I will perform to the best of my ability with trust that this is all part of a plan much bigger than me, and I am not alone.