Saturday, May 29, 2010

D2 Nationals 5k Race Recap

AM: 3 miles
PM: 2 miles w/u + strides
5k race @16:35; 6th place
2.5 mile c/d
Total: 7.5-8 miles

After yesterday's weather fiasco and endless delays, I was feeling pretty recovered from the 10k and antsy to get back on the track tonight. That's not to say I actually was recovered--I knew that no matter how fervently I tried to convince myself otherwise, racing only 48 hours after a physically and mentally draining 10k would prove difficult. But I was looking forward to the challenge nonetheless. Fortunately the day passed quickly and before I knew it, it was time to head to the track.

The first event for Queens athletes was the men's 1500m final. After failing to qualify for the finals indoors, Simon redeemed himself by diving for the line and securing a 6th place (and All-American) finish. Next up for us was the women's 800, which was changed to a two-section final after last night's weather. Maraya was in the first heat after entering the meet with the 17th fastest time. She, too, made Queens proud by running a season best (2:10-high) and finishing 12th, five spots above her seed. Tanya and I cheered her down the homestretch before heading up the hill to check in and begin our warmup. Deja vu in the form of a cemetery loop, only with more lighthearted banter and fewer nerves than two nights prior. My legs felt light and surprisingly fresh, although I had no idea how they would respond once I stepped onto the track. For all I knew, I'd already run the power right out of them with my intense (if less than successful) kick at the end of Thursday night's race. I would find out soon enough.

At 8:45 our group of 19 filed down onto the track. Ten of the 19 had also competed in the 10k, and one of the remaining girls had just run the 1500m final a few hours prior. Only a few of the athletes were fresh coming into the race--including defending outdoor and indoor champ Neely Spence from Shippensburg. We all toed the line on the backstretch, waited for the starter's commands, and then were off into the night.

Predictably, the first lap started as a crawl. A crowded, fiesty, jostling crawl. Remembering how I'd gotten boxed in at Penn, I swung around the first turn wide and was actually leading the darn thing down the home stretch before others picked up the pace. Still, our first lap was a pedestrian 83, and for a brief moment I wondered if this would be reminiscent of the 2.5 mile jog followed by a half mile sprint we contested at indoor nationals. I didn't have to wonder for long, as Spence quickly took up the front and increased the pace. I saw later that we split 78, 77, 77 to come through the mile in 5:15. This was quick for me (possibly a mile PR?) and considerably faster than I expected--I honestly hadn't planned on running sub-PR pace in this championship race--but as I was already off the lead group I couldn't give any thought to slowing down. Simply put, this felt hard from second lap, and after a mile I digested the sobering realization that it certainly wasn't going to get any easier. There would be no planning or strategizing or settling in like during the 10k. From this point on it would be me running as hard as I could and trying to catch as many people as possible without blowing up and royally embarrassing myself.

Honestly, much of the rest of the race is a blur, albeit a painful one. I think I remember passing through two miles in 10:35, probably around tenth place. I was well off the real race that was unfolding between Neely and Tanya, but I could tell that some of the girls in front of me were going to pay the price for going out too hard. I may not have been able to pick it up, but as long as I didn't fall off the pace I knew I would catch people. Sure enough, with two laps to go I was somewhere around eighth and still gaining, although I felt like I was about to die. After the race Jenna and Simmons would comment about how strong my kick was, but all I know is I kept telling myself that I was not going to get walked down before the finish like I did in the 10k. I finished utterly exhausted in sixth place and rather unexpectedly set a PR in the process. Admittedly, my previous PR of 16:44 wasn't that impressive, but as I've said before I never expect to run "fast" during a championship race--particularly this championship race when I had just raced a 10k 48 hours prior.

After the race Tanya and I took a few of the other girls--Neely, Sarah and Brenae--on a pitch dark cemetery cooldown. Along the way we noticed that the group of eight who finished as All-Americans tonight was virtually identical to the list that finished All-American indoors except for maybe one. At least we're consistent, I suppose. I know Tanya was disappointed about getting second (she was 16:20 to Neely's 16:14), but you can't argue that she had a phenomenal meet. Both of us were pretty pleased with how things turned out--especially when we found out that our combined 27 points had placed us sixth as a team! Turns out that's the highest NCAA finish of any Queens sports team in Queens history. Though both of us would be lying to say the team competition had been on our mind going into the meet, the result certainly ended up being the icing on the cake. Our last NCAA competition as Queens runners went about as well as we could've hoped. Thanks again to everyone who supported me this weekend, whether it was in person or through email or on Facebook. It truly meant a lot, and made me really appreciate having the meet right here in Charlotte. It's been quite a season, and I'm so grateful to have had you all along for the ride.