Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year in Review

And just like that, 2010 is over. In some ways it seems to have stretched on forever, considering everything that has transpired in the past 365 days. And yet there are moments from those days that are so vividly etched into my memory that they could have just as likely taken place this morning, or yesterday, or a few weeks ago. I remember exactly one year ago today strapping on the flats for my first tentative workout after battling an autumn full of injuries. I was standing on the track at San Diego High with Jordan, basking in the warmth of the late morning California sun, asking for nothing more than to get through 3x mile in one piece. I remember turning to Jordan after closing the last interval in 5:32 and remarking that I had about five weeks before attempting to run a 5k almost 10 seconds per mile faster to qualify for D2 Indoor Nationals. At the time, the idea was almost unfathomable. Little did I know that I would accomplish that goal and so many more in the whirlwind year that was to follow.

One way to sum up my running in 2010 would be to call it a year of redemption. In 2009, my first "collegiate" track season as a graduate student at Queens, I achieved modest PRs of 17:27 (indoors) and 36:12. Both of these were provisional qualifiers for their respective National meets but neither made the cut (though I was only the third person left out of the 10k). Or, to go back even farther, prior to coming to Queens in 2009 my PRs at the same distances were something like 18:30 and 38:00. I was a decent local runner and nothing more. So that first track season at Queens, though unremarkable, ignited something within me. I caught a glimpse of the potential I never knew was there, that had possibly been lying latent within me the entire time, and I knew that I only had one chance to maximize it. To be fair, that's not entirely true; I can run track meets until I'm 90 years old if I so choose. But with only two semesters of track eligibility at Queens, the spring of 2010 was truly my final shot as an NCAA athlete. It was time to see what I could do.

As most readers of my blog know, the year went better than I could have ever imagined. Don't misunderstand that statement as me being boastful; on the contrary, I'm humbled every day by the performances of the friends and competitors who surround me. Rather, try to view it as I do, as someone who is still a bit in awe of the fact that she was, through the efforts and beliefs and positive encouragement of her coaches and friends and family, afforded the opportunity to transform from an average local runner to a legitimate competitor in some of the most prestigious track meets in the country. (Granted, I got lapped in most of those meets, sometimes twice, but it's still pretty freaking cool.) I raced twice at the Armory, twice at Stanford, once at Penn Relays. I spent two miles jogging in the 5k at Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque and two miles sprinting my ass off in the 5k at Outdoor Nationals in Charlotte. I was absolutely ecstatic to run 34:37 for 10k at the first Stanford meet--and, unbelievably, held the top spot on the D2 national performance list until Tanya and Sarah shattered that mark at the Payton Jordan Invite five weeks later. It was there where I watched Chris Solinsky break the US 10k record--except I barely noticed because I was too busy pouting about my own performance, when I'd run an almost identical time as the previous meet but experienced completely opposite emotions. There are some races I'd like to forget--sprinting off the track during Conference to find a bathroom, anyone?--and others that, no matter what, I know I'll remember for the rest of my life. There isn't a week that goes by when I don't flash back to the last lap of the 10k at Outdoor Nationals, when I was in second place and gaining on Tanya. I remember looking up with 300 to go and seeing Jordan at the fence. He yelled, "You can win this thing!" and I swear that I spent the next 50 seconds trying to prove him right. In the end, it didn't happen. Tanya held strong, and despite my 2:33 last 800 I got my doors blown off by Sarah with 100 to go. Part of me was absolutely devastated. The other part is still amazed, to this day, that I was even there at all.

And so, gradually, the accumulation of all those experiences brought me to the most powerful result of 2010: the realization that I do belong in those races. I went from never qualifying for Nationals to earning three All-American honors in as many months. That doesn't happen by accident. So even though my brief collegiate career is over seemingly just as it was beginning, my mindset as a runner is forever changed. I refuse to go back to being complacent with haphazard training and mediocre race performances. Sure, running can't always be my top priority--let's not forget I finally have a wonderful, fun, amazing real job!--but 2011 is my year to set ambitious, yet achievable, goals. For starters, I will qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. Megan Hovis and Caitlin made it look easy in 2010, and I'll never hear the end of it if I don't join them soon. If I can achieve that early enough in the year, I plan to put together a track season with the hopes of qualifying for US Outdoor Nationals. I have some unfinished business in the 10k, and I'd like to try to drop my PR by another minute or so. It won't be easy, but I believe it's attainable. Finally, and tightly interwoven among all of the above, I need to stay healthy. This is an obvious statement but one that always proves difficult for me to enact. With that said, in looking back at 2010 I only missed four weeks of running--in early fall, when I messed up my foot--and there's no reason why 2011 can't bring even more consistency.

Of course, this past year wasn't all about me. (Maybe 99% about me, but not completely.) It's been amazing seeing so many of my friends and training partners achieve great things. From Caitlin and Megan's marathon qualifiers to Tanya and Mike's national titles, Jordan and Danielle's victories and PRs at Thunder Road to Pezz's top 10 finish at Club XC Nationals, these achievements and many more have been pretty inspiring to witness and, in some cases, play a small part in. 2010 was also the year I became a member of the Charlotte Running Club, which in my unbiased opinion is quickly turning into one of the most engaging and supportive local running clubs I've ever seen. Having such a great resource here in Charlotte has transformed what could be viewed as a less than stellar training environment for serious runners into a wonderful and supportive community. Remembering the cacophony of their voices screaming my name every time I came down the backstretch at Nationals--that's 25 times in the 10k, but who's counting--still brings a smile to my face. There are some intangibles that you can't put a price on (well, other than the $20 a year membership fee), and this cohort is one of them.

And so, as 2010 draws to a close, I have many things to be thankful for and proud of. I also know I have a long way to go if I want to make another incremental jump as a runner. 2011 is the year I am up for the challenge, and with the help and support of all the wonderful people around me I truly believe that anything is possible.

Happy New Year, friends. Let's make it great.


caitchris said...

Great post Meagan. I'm glad you had that "A-ha!" moment and were able to realize that you can run with at the big meets with the big dawgs. Just as your TCU football team proved yesterday, small can mean big wins. You are so appreciated by many in the Charlotte running community. I know you'll be toeing the line with Megan and I at the Trials!