Pan Am Games: Part 2 The Race

Rise and shine, it’s race day!

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The alarm went off at 4:10 am! Time to get moving, today was race day. Not much left to do, jump into my uniform, wash up, make my aid bottles, and braid my hair. Then it was off to meet up with our team staff and catch our shuttle bus to the course. Just our luck that the bus driver we got was on his first day on the job and had no idea where to go. Good thing some of the coaches and staff knew how to navigate the shut down roads and were able to direct the bus driver..otherwise we would have been walking 2 miles to the race course from where he wanted to drop us off. No thank you, we would be covering enough mileage today!

Once we got to the course the confusion continued…this time in regards to when we would be need to be out of the call room and last have access to our bags, bottles, etc. To make it even more complicated the information (which changed 3x times) needed to be communicated in English and Spanish (God bless the Brazilians who spoke Portuguese!).

Staying cool, warming up:

P1010658After much confusion we were finally suited with our timing chips, numbers pinned, and allowed to warm up. As expected it was warm and extremely humid this morning. The sun was not blazing yet so that was a plus, and I was pleasantly surprised to find much of the course would be shaded, at least for the beginning of our race.  The trick now was to warm up the legs  and have them feeling loose and fluid without increasing core body temperature too much. Studies have shown that preventing core body temperature from rising helps delay onset of heat associated fatigue. In order to do this we wear commercially available cooling vests, or even ice water soaked towels, sometimes both. As was the case race morning I had a mini commercial ice vest that fit much like a construction workers reflective vest and supplemented with a cold towel around my neck. I also poured ice cold water over my wrists and neck prior to heading to the start line.

Before I knew it warm up was over, I had already gone to the bathroom 3x since waking up and still felt like the “tank wasn’t emptied all the way”. Oh well there is nothing more you can really do in those moments. As it turns out on my last visit to the port-a-potty I had the company of a male black widow…yikes! IMG_3928IMG_3912IMG_3918We were called to the start line and each competitor was introduced in English, Spanish, and French, pretty cool! I was hip number 13 which actually worked out well because where I was positioned on the starting line was great for walking the tangents of the course.

And we’re off!

P1010667DSC05712TDSC05708he gun went off and I went for it! Tim and I discussed being smart, and not raising the heart rate too high for the first 8k. We knew to achieve anything big in the race I would have to go into the well, just had to make sure I didn’t dig too deep too early. We went out in 4:31 (for ref my American record pace is 4:32.5 per k pace). Then followed with a 4:29. I felt ok, and a quick glance at my watch indicated my HR was well within the effort I could handle. Then we dropped to 4:25…while my HR was still at an acceptable level I decided to let the leaders take off and hang with the next group of athletes that would form. We still hit another 4:25 k! But once again my HR reassured I was still racing within my means. We came through 5k in a blazing 22:13 (and I was in 6th/7th place), which equates to 1:28:52 (almost 2 min under my American Record). DSC05723I felt great at this point of the race, despite the fact that this 5k split ties my 4th fastest 5k time ever (that’s racing the 5k, and stopping not having to continue on for another 15k!). At this point I had a mini pack with the 2nd Mexican and a Columbian girl. It was great having people to work with and continue pressing on. We came through our 10k split in 45:08. This actually ties my lifetime best 10k (which I split on the way to my 20k American Record). It took a bit of restraint mentally not to push my 10th 1k and dip under 45mins. I’ll have to save that PR for another day.

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Coach Tim, getting to coach me live in person! Thanks for making the trip; thanks for always believing!

The next 10k would be where the real race would begin. I felt pretty good through 12k, but by 15k I was really holding back not stopping to go to the bathroom. This was definitely a consequence of not emptying the tank all the way prior to race start, and only exacerbated by going out too hard in the beginning. This was the most frustrating part of the entire race because my legs were a lot fresher and stronger than the pace I was walking at. It felt like we were (minus the Ecuadorian who started conservative and zoomed passed everyone on her way to a bronze medal) all frozen in time, moving forward in the race but nDSC05755ot gaining ground on one another because everyone was individually slowing, badly! I toyed with the idea of “letting it go” and walking at a faster pace, but I know once I “broke the seal” there is only temporary relief before another wave comes and there was just too much left of the race to be displaying my insides outside if you catch my drift.

I finished the race with a respectable closing 1k (faster than the 3rd, 5th, and 6th competitor) unfortunately km’s 12-14 were just too slow and I finished in a sobering 7th place. It was still a season best time of 1:33:07, my best by far for the weather conditions and still aDSC05761 top 10 All-Time US performance.It’s just hard to be happy with that when your competitors are that much ahead of you. The top Mexican girl went on to win the race before collapsing after crossing the line. She narrowly missed crashing before the line as well as being pulled by the judges for illegal race walking mechanics. Brazil raced a very solid strong 2nd place, and the Ecuadorian girl walked the smartest race to capture a well earned bronze. I was 30 seconds off of 4th place, which is why it always felt like I was in the race the whole time. I kept thinking if I could just muster up a little more speed without further aggravating my GI system I could catch them.

Reflection:

It’s hard because the reality is I was 9th seeded going into the race based on season bests, and 7th seeded based on personal bests. Therefore I performed as expected or maybe even better than expected. While the finishing time is in no way a PR, it was definitely PR effort and had the weather been more ideal I felt I would have crushed my previous best. I am happy that I went for it and took a chance. I am also really encouraged with where my fitness is at. My HR was very controlled for such a race, which shows me that had my GI system allowed it there was a little more left to give from my legs/cardiovascular system. I also finished very well considering how close I was to other girls who have personal best and season bests a lot faster than my own. This is another indicator that given the right race and right conditions I am ready to destroy my PR. I am really happy that this is only the midpoint of my summer competition season and am really looking forward to racing in Beijing at World Championships in the end of August. That race unfortunately by no means will be ideal weather conditions (hot, humid, terrible air quality) but will be another chance to battle it out with these same girls and the rest of the World’s best.

All in all, I’m not satisfied, but I’m dissapointed, mostly I’m hungry and eager for more! Cheers to another solid 4 weeks before World Champs!!!

 A huge thanks!

As with any race it takes a lot to get to the starting line. This includes all those who have helped with my training, my recovery, and my general state of happiness and positivity. I have such an amazing network of support that I am thankful for every single day. My family, friends, coaches, and chiropractors are phenomenal! Also special thank you cheering shout out to fellow US race walkers John Nunn (who should have been racing 2 hrs after me) , Mike Manozzi, Jon Hallman and Stella Cashman for making the trip to come out and cheer Miranda and I on live!

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My family who got to watch and cheer live; enjoying post race lunch while I recovered!

When you race for Team USA there is a whole additional group of people from USATF that navigate and negotiate all of our travel, stay and training needs when we arrive in the host city. This trip was comprised of an exceptional staff from USATF, some of my personal favorites are Head Coach Rose Monday, Team Manager Marsha, and Tracey Sundland (who was amazing working the aid table). Additionally on this trip I met Dr Roundtree who was extremely helpful immediately after finishing in dealing with my GI recovery process as well as helping figure things out in the future. Head Athletic Trainer Jody Moore was also fantastic, he helped take care of our pre-race needs as well as the very important role of prepping our ice vests, getting enough ice and towels to keep us from heating up too quickly during warmup and was ready to jump into action if need be during the race. He also helped make the right call in preventing me from getting an IV immediately after the race since I didn’t have a TUE (therapeutic use exemption) form on file. While an IV would have helped tremendously rehydrate me post race without stressing my GI system, it turns out that unless I am in the state of a medical emergency and my vitals are not stable I could not receive and IV without a previously filed TUE. And last but not least fellow Pan Am Teammate from 2011, Camille Herron, who was working for the USOC, was there cheering every step of the way! Thank you again everyone!

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