Olympic Trials Race Recap

*This is part 3 of my recap of the Olympic Trials weekend:

As I scurried to the start line I looked around for and soon found Kristen Carter. We had met each other in the massage room the day before and found that we both wanted to start at 6:20 pace. We were lined up in the second to last row at the start line, which I was uncomfortable with… I probably should be farther up. Problem was, everyone was assembled and I didn’t feel like I could charge to the middle of the pack, when everyone there is as fast, if not faster, than me. Kristen didn’t look worried, so I tried not to be either.

Once the gun went off the nerves of the event left me. I’m generally a pretty patient and composed racer, and I think that showed. I stuck to my plan, which was 3 miles at 6:20 and then bringing it down to 6:05-6:10. My first mile was way too slow – 6:28 by my watch (started 6 seconds off the line), which meant the clock showed 6:34. But — I told myself that was a good thing. Better to start too slow than too fast! I brought my pace to 6:20 for the 2nd mile (where I apparently was 4th from last! Glad no one told me that, I might have stressed a little at that), then a 6:23 for the 3rd. I knew at this point that my goal 6:05s were just not in the cards for the day… my legs didn’t feel the best.

I find it impossible to “feel” the first mile of a marathon. Of course, my watch didn’t work the first three miles because of all of the downtown buildings in Houston, so then I’m left more blind than usual. Perhaps it’s something I’ll get better at, perhaps I couldn’t “find” a pace because I hadn’t done a lot at MP in the last few weeks because of the achilles interruption… who knows. Something to work on for next time.

At 2.2 miles we looped through the finish line — to start the first of 3 big 8 mile loops that we would do. What an absolutely AMAZING experience. I will never forget it. The street is lined with American flags, Marines down the middle in salute, and the deafining roar of the crowd (Go USA!). It made me INCREDIBLY proud to have made it here. I wish I could describe it more vividly, I will forever remember how that felt. I had goosebumps running down the finish line street. The woman next to me breathed, “Wow – nothing like that, eh?”.

Catching a pack of women and moving up through them to lead for a while:

At mile three I tried to notch it down and struggled to swing into that rhythm (compared to Grandma’s, where it came to me pretty easy). I could tell that it wasn’t quite my day. With each passing mile, I willed myself to find 6:10s. My legs just simply wouldn’t cooperate – much less allow me to find 6:05s (my real goal). The ensuing miles were 6:15, 6:14, 6:16, 6:16, 6:11, 6:15, 6:10. From mile 10-20 I averaged 6:12. So — perhaps that was my “rhythm” for the day, I just know that I am faster/more fit than that. It was weird to have that slow feeling in my legs, to not be bouncing lightly down the course.

Despite knowing I was slower than I hoped, I kept an incredibly positive attitude. I am very proud that I left the watch behind and focused solely on passing the women ahead of me. I was so focused on making this a full effort, making this race hurt as much as possible, that I looked at the watch but didn’t allow myself to process what it was saying. Instead, I focued internally. Can I pick it up? Can I hurt more? I know I’ve said it a lot here, but Dr. Asp’s work is truly transformational and it has made a huge difference in my ability to “race”.

I don’t know my place from mile 2 until mile 20, but at 20 Nate yelled out that I was in 89th place. Really?!? I thought to myself. 89th is great! I had been hoping for top 100 (180+ started the race).

I also thought to myself that I felt TOO good at this point. I was a little uncomfortable, but not nearly enough (granted, I have coached myself to hurt A LOT during these… which is probably a little dangerous). For all of the miles that had clicked by that I had tried to make my legs move into that next gear, for all of the mental coaching I was giving myself, I knew I was leaving too much out there. 20 miles was also my cue to move into another gear, to truly race the last 10k. So… let’s go!

At mile 20:

I had told my family/friends that this was an important point for me, and it was great to see them all there. I still remember Brenden’s hoarse voice SCREAMING at me near that point, my immediate family shortly thereafter, and so many others. I had the absolute BEST cheer section on the course, all clad in bright yellow shirts with my picture on them :). I could not ask for better supporters (on the course and off! There were people dressed in “Team Nichole” yellow in Northfield, in Washington, at home!) ; I am really, really blessed.

See the yellow shirts? 🙂

I looked at my watch a couple of times that last 10k, but it didn’t matter. This was about full effort. GO NICHOLE, I coached myself. I came up upon & passed women like never before, it even amazed me. I had a lot of cheers from others, “Wow – look at your stride!” and a lot of others commenting on how strong I looked. Cool, I guess? But that also probably means that I had too much at this point. But I couldn’t physically do anything about it!!! Argh!!

I crossed the finish line, unbelievably proud. 2:44:12, a new personal best (2:44:06 chip time), and 69th place. (Seriously, 69th?) I am incredibly proud that a year and a half ago I set my goal to qualify for the Trials. I’m so proud to have made that goal, to have been in Houston racing amongst the country’s best, to have held my own, and to have represented everyone that has supported me. THANK YOU to everyone that has supported me, cheered me on during junior high, high school, and collegiate races, paced me on crazy runs, and in general believing in me. It means SO much to me, and is the reason I am where I am today.

To those reading that may be thinking about their own goals — dream it, live it, be it. Amazing things happen when you challenge yourself & aim to see what you can do. I’m living proof.

Now… a little more downtime to heal this bum achilles, but I’m fired up to race the 2:40 (or sub 2:40) I was dreaming of at the Trials. 🙂 So there might be another marathon in my near future… 🙂

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  1. Nichole, I am so freaking proud of you – what a great race recap and conclusion to your post. Sorry that I am like 3 months behind reading it, I always get to your blog eventually but we have been so busy lately. Anyways, awesome job!! – Chrissy

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