The Third Time Isn’t Always a Charm

A few weekends ago, I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make in my running career.  Scratch that – it was THE most difficult decision.  The scene: The Payton Jordan Invite hosted by Stanford, my third time racing on the Stanford oval.  The goal: Running the Olympic Trials ‘A’ standard to guarantee me a position on the starting line in June.  The result: A painful decision to drop out just two miles into the 10K race.

Let me start by backtracking just a bit.  The plan for this outdoor track season was to run just two track races in preparation for the Olympic Trials in June.  The first would be the 5k at Mt. SAC Relays that would serve as more or less of a tune up race for the 10k to be run the following week (9 days later to be exact) at the Payton Jordan Invite, a meet known to produce scorching times.  After all, World, American, and collegiate leaders and records and Olympic standards etc. have all been set on this very unassuming track situated on the edge of Stanford’s picturesque campus.

Mt. SAC went okay, but ultimately I didn’t achieve the result I was looking for.  I went into the race ready and expecting to run in the 13:40s.  I was on pace and comfortable through about 4k, when I immediately felt a shift, tightened up, and lost control and confidence.  I ended up running 14:07, meaning my last 1k was…painful, to say the least.  If nothing else, I came out of this knowing exactly what the pace feels like that I needed to run to achieve the Olympic Trials ‘A’ standard the following week in the 10k (28:15).

One of the nice things about racing Mt. SAC and Payton Jordan this year compared to last was that I didn’t have to fly back home for a week of finals in between.  A few teammates and I were fortunate enough to be able to stay with a few Stanford grads and great new friends about 15 minutes from Stanford’s campus.  We were able to avoid the battle of having to recover from jet-lag (twice) before our races at Payton Jordan.

Then, after a week of relaxing, sightseeing (highlighted for me by our visit to Alcatraz), and making new friends, race day was upon us.  My race didn’t go off until 10:20 pm – that’s a long time to sit around and wait!  Eventually, the time passed and the gun went off right on schedule.  Something was different this time, though, compared to all of the other 10ks I’ve run in the past.  I felt “off” right from the start and made the decision at two miles that this night unfortunately wasn’t my night.

I suppose it happens to many runners at some point or another during their careers, but I wasn’t prepared for it to happen in an Olympic year when the stakes were so high.  After debating for a few days about whether to run another 10k to try to move myself up on the descending order list for the Trials, I decided to go in another direction and instead I will be running the US Half Marathon Championship in Duluth, MN on June 16th (the week before the Trials).

So, I’m now back to training hard and getting ready for the Half Marathon Champs.  Hopefully I’ll be able to rebound from my disappointment with the track season to have a successful (extended) stint of racing on the roads.

Good luck to everyone with whatever upcoming races you may have!


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