*I will do my best to recap the whole amazing experience that was the Olympic Trials. Here is part one:
I flew out Thursday for the race. My family and coach Jerry met me at the Red Wing airport and we boarded the company’s private jet. What an absolutely awesome experience :). We arrived in Houston right around 12:30 and quickly boarded a taxi to downtown.
I ran in to the hotel to quick check in, grab my credentials, and hit up the athlete lunch before it closed. The food was definitely a highlight – I was in heaven. They had every type of healthy grain, pasta, and other carb-only food option. I filled a plate with wheat pasta, brown rice, broccoli, a piece of bread with jam, and an Italian roll. YUM. I was too shy to sit with anyone, so instead just sat off to the side and watched every one else. It’s really neat to see so many very fast runners! Nate and I checked into the hotel and changed into our running gear for a short shake-out run. Leighton and Ben (cousin and brother) came with us. We ran the first 2.2 mile loop of the course, which was a disaster because there was a red light literally every block or two (the time we made it three blocks without stopping we all cheered). Probably not the best choice of routes, but I wanted to be able to see the start, finish, and the first loop. After that we headed outside the downtown loop to finish our 30 minute run. I did three striders afterwards and noted that my legs were feeling pretty good. Yes :).
Took time to take a picture at the finish line after the run – they’re still setting everything up.
Then I left for a massage, provided by the race. It was honestly the BEST massage I have ever had (granted, I haven’t had many, but still…). They worked on my hamstring (not firing quite right) and around the achilles area. She also did a lighter massage on the rest of my legs. I made a mental note: massages like this will be really key in future cycles to break up muscle tissue and tight knots when you’re training at peak volume.
I came back to the hotel room to find Nate lying on the bathroom floor, pale, and hardly able to get up. He was alternating between throwing up and well… you get the picture. What??? NOOOOOO….. He had just done the run with me and seemed fine! He told us to head out and you could tell he was trying hard not to throw up. I beelined out of there, careful not to touch anything. Ben and I gave each other a scared look as the door closed behind us.
Then a sinking feeling: right before the run he had drank from my water bottle and I had finished it off after him. Ohhh nooooo. Please, Lord, do not let me become sick the day before the race. All of the training, the goals, etc… Just don’t think about it, I told myself. Your body knows what it needs to do and won’t let itself get sick.
Luckily I had the best support team possible down there with me, and Leighton was happy (well, maybe not :)) to give up his side of the bed for me that evening. I slept the night with Kathy (aunt), with Brenden and Leighton on the floor. I actually slept for over 10+ hours – hard – which was much needed after a few restless evenings earlier in the week.
We woke up Friday and immediately did another shake out run – just 2 miles with 3 striders. My legs felt good, but not completely springy. I headed inside for one last massage to work the kinks out of my hamstring and flush the lactate out of the legs. Then it was “go” time with all of the pre-race check in stuff.
It was pretty weird to go through all of that without Nate. He was really sick, and didn’t want to risk getting me infected, so put himself in quarantine and stayed away from me until race day. But since he’s always the one helping me through race details, logistics, etc. I was really lucky that Brenden was in our same hotel (and Jerry was just down the road and I’m sure he would have been happy to have run over to help!). It was a stress-free transition to relying on Brenden to coordinate things and keep me on schedule. We checked in our uniform (which is crazy — they photograph everything you’ll wear and warm up in — they also covered every possible logo with duct tape, including the word “dri-fit”) and then headed over to the race’s technical meeting. I got goosebumps during the meeting. The logistics behind something of this magnitude are impressive, and you realize just how important of a race it is. They went over race rules, schedule for the morning, how bottles would be put out on the course, more rules, and then let us pick up our race bibs and chips.
Then it was back to the elite suite to finish our bottles. Leighton had put them together while we were in the technical meeting, so we just needed to add some sort of identifier (I reused a bridesmaid bouquet’s flowers and was proud of myself for the creativity), tape gel to the bottle, and put either water or a poweraid/water mixture in it. To note for next time: the frequency of gels was PERFECT, as was the mixture. We turned those in, figured out that mine would be on table 39, spot 5 (again, it’s crazy how well organized they are!! Guess they sort of have to be…).
I then ran to the front desk to get a new hotel room (Nate had checked out of the infected one and moved in to stay with his parents who had already had the “Norwalk Virus”, which is what they thought he probably had). I moved my stuff in, and then ran down for a 5:00 meal (earlier than normal so I could go to the Opening Ceremonies — and didn’t want to eat afterwards because I thought 6 or 6:30 would be too little time to digest it all).
The Opening Ceremonies were just awesome. They lead all of the athletes into the park, giving us flags to wave. Wish I could remember the stat… something like, when you consider the X thousand of high school distance runners that enter the sport, times that by the 15 year age range that we have competing here today, these 300 men and women before you truly represent the top of the top in the sport of long distance running. Guess I had never thought of it that way. They had a former gold medalist talk about the success and disappointment that the Trials can bring – she made the US team in the ’80s by 1/100th of a second and went on to win the gold medal. The following Olympic year she placed forth in the Trials, missing the team (and the chance to defend her medal) by 1/100th of a second. Guess that’s the beauty and the ugliness of such an event… it literally comes down to one day, one race. And potentially less than a second.