Monday, February 8, 2016

Olympic Trials is THIS WEEKEND!

Five days. FIVE! Man, less than a week until the Olympic Trials. Two years ago this weekend I qualified for this race at the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. I had just turned 21 years old and I had nothing to lose, nothing on the line but a shot at an awesome opportunity. And here it is, six days away. Things have changed quite bit since that day and I am grateful every day to be healthy and running and able to continue to pursue this incredible opportunity.

This training cycle has thankfully been really solid physically. I have been without injury, save a bit of a knee thing bothering me around the Santa to the Sea Half in December which had me cross training for two days and a brief unrelated knee thing bothering me a little over a week ago. Since July, I have put in base work, run many miles and many workouts, and then the marathon specific 10 weeks of training I have done have resulted in 100% completed workouts. Sometimes, the paces were slower than desired, but sometimes, it all felt effortless. I figure that comes with the territory, which is something I am still learning. I was able to race the Houston Half Marathon on January 17th, which is an incredible event. The race takes really good care of the elites and puts on a flawless weekend of races. The weather was beautiful, but unfortunately I didn't have the race Dennis and I wanted. Also unfortunately, a number of elites got food poisoning after the race, me included, and I am sure that didn't do anything to help my performance either. We put the race and day off with sickness behind me with a 25 miler, followed by a solid marathon workout the following week, acting as a solid confidence booster. 

I occasionally struggled with mental drive, but thankfully I had supportive friends and family (thanks Jillian, Katie, Mark, Kate, Megan, Mom, Dad, Jackie, etc.), an incredibly positive boyfriend, and a wonderful support system from my sponsors and Team USA Minnesota, all of which helped get me through the times I questioned my potential in this upcoming Olympic Trials marathon race. 

As I mentioned before, I have been down in Houston for about five weeks now and I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. The weather has been beautiful, although a bit humid at times, and has been a needed environment for some of the big training days for which MinneSNOWta would be challenging. I’ve had a number of opportunities to do outreach with the Houston Marathon Foundation while down here, as well. While going into detail about all of them would turn this into quite the “long read,” I did want to mention a few of them. Each experience had me pause, allowing me to take some time to be thankful for the health, support, and opportunity I have. The kids that I met and ran with have incredible positivity, strength, and courage. It’s pretty awesome that the Houston Marathon Foundation not only facilitates We Run Houston groups, but also lets us all get involved in making a positive impact on the young generation of runners. Here are a few of the highlights: 

--> Meet the Elites, Houston Half Marathon weekend : an hour of Q and A with the KSR and We Run Houston groups which either had just completed the 5k on Saturday, or were going to run the Armco Houston Half the following day. The Middle School and High School groups all had such great questions and great spirit for this sport! 
--> Ortiz Middle School, We Run Houston after school running program 
We got to spend the afternoon running a workout  with the after school running program at this at risk middle school. The kids were so positive and its so cool to hear what an impact this running group has on the kids success in and out of school!

--> Houston Children's Hospital Visit
Josh, Biya, and I joined Becky Wade and Jarrett LeBlanc at the Houston Children's Hospital to meet with kids on two of the floors. The kids had such good spirit and positivity about being strong. This opportunity definitely helped me realize how much I take my basic health for granted. It's so inspiring to see these little ones smile and fight and they will all be on my mind during this weekends race. 

   --> Katy Middle School XC team assembly

Just today, Ally and Erin of the Houston Marathon Foundation took us to do a Q and A with the 6th through 8th grade XC teams at Katy High School. Talking to kids about how I got started and what keeps me driven is always a good way to remind myself of it, too.

Lisa Thompson has also been an great facilitator of fun for Biya, Katy, Josh, and I. She took us to a number of group runs, a delicious brunch with the HARRA running group, and even got us in for a special NASA visit! Lisa has an amazing soul and I will be so sad to leave. It will take far more than a million thank-yous for me to express really what an amazing experience she has made this training cycle for me. 

Lastly, I want to thank the Houston Marathon Foundation for connecting us with the Ironman Human Performance Center in the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Building. Kevin, a super helpful PT there, worked on Josh and I using dry needling and functional therapy to make our pains go away. He and I worked through some poor tracking in my patella but doing a massive number of step ups and he helped me learn how to activate my glutes on my own, so that I could easily set my posterior chain up for success on all of my runs and workouts. It bows me away how helpful people are, all we had to do was reach out and ask for the help.

I am now in taper mode, feeling rested and a bit bored, which is good. I have had lots of time to drink coffee (I have a problem) and study for the GRE (1/2 way through my study book!) and read (on book 7 since Thanksgiving + tons of Digg news articles). My body and mind will be ready at 10:22am on Saturday February 13th 2016. I promise no matter what, I will have a smile on my face at that finish line. A PR or not, I have succeeded by making it to this race and giving it all I've got. As the 6th or 7th youngest racing female on the course on Saturday, I want to make sure to show everyone that it’s only the beginning for me — a spectacular beginning! 

I want to thank my sponsors Team USA Minnesota, Bonk Breaker, GENUCAN, San Franola Granola, and Balega International (my newest one! I will talk socks in a future blog) for believing in me and giving me the things I need to be successful. I want to thank Jillian, Mark, Kate, Ryan, my parents, and my teammates (and many, many more people) for being my sounding board and encouraging me exhaustively. I promise not a day goes by that I don't express gratitude for everything you do for me.

I will touch base after the race, while I am on my two weeks of NO RUNNING (seriously, I need it more than you know) to go over the race and looking into my racing future. The evening and Sunday after the race will be spent with my family and friends all coming out to support me at the race. Then, Ryan and I will be taking a vacation to sunny San Diego before I finally head back to Minnesota after almost 11 weeks away. 

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