My alarm goes off 5:30am, Good morning London, it’s race day! It’s amazing how much easier it is to wake up very early when it’s race day. Today it was the real deal, no more practice meal combos and times. I had committed to a prerace eating strategy and that’s all I could do, what ever happened happened, stressing over if it was right or not, too much or too little would be of no use today because the more I stress the more likely my stomach is to respond unfavorably. I went into the cafeteria got my half plate of eggs, four pices of bread, unfortunately the rolls I had been practicing with were no longer an option, got a spoon full imitation nutella, one banana and a bottle of orange juice. Then I sat down in front of the TV and watched a recap of the previous day’s Olympic moments. Twenty minutes later I was done, I made a cup of peppermint tea and headed back to my room to take a nap until 10:30am.
Needless to say I had a lot of trouble falling back to sleep with a lot of intermittent periods of sleeping and getting woken up, doors opening and shutting in the apartment, and my own fretful dreams. I didn’t have any race nightmares but did have a frantic dream where I kept trying to close and lock another door while the “bad guys” were trying to break in. I also had one extremely vivid dream, where one of the Team leaders wanted to introduce me to someone on the staff. As I walked up I noticed they were wearing our new shiny blue United States of America Nike Jacket, the one the Soccer Team wore on the podium. It was a small statured person sitting in a chair, wearing worn blue jean like pants. He had a navy blue hat on and reached out his arm to shake my hand. I shook his hand and instantly it felt familiar. Then it was all a rush as I began to realize this man in my dream was my Dziadzi wishing me good luck, in almost the same instant that I realized it was Dziadzi the annoying logical part of my brain began stepping in and telling me that this was not real and I instantly woke up from my dream. Thanks for the visit Dziadzi! By 10:30 am my alarm went off a second time. I woke up, scrolled through my twitter feed, checked my emails, face book and any other social media platform that could distract me from thinking about racing.
By 11:30am it was time for breakfast number two, which was only 4 pieces of Italian bread with some more imitation nutella and the smallest handful of Lucky charms, and a bottle of apple juice, the delicious apple cider like kind. I was done eating and grabbed 6 bottles of water to make my race drink mix with. Water bottles still in arms I walked down to our medical staff area in the apartment basement and grabbed a chocolate smoothie that our nutritionist Andrea had stocked for me. I had just made it back to the elevator when my water bottles began to slip and I wound up dropping my smoothie all over the fall. Ahhh, thankfully Andrea had made extras. This time I dropped my water bottles off first and then made a second trip to get my second smoothie. I sipped my smoothie in front of the TV while watching the men’s 50k. Watching the men compete was great, it gave me a sneak preview of the course while pumping me up and inspiring me for my own race. It was so inspiring and encouraging to see finisher after finisher racing a season best, personal best, or even national record that day. This meant that the course was good, if not great, and the competition would push me to my own best. I was eager and excited to see just how fast I would be on this course.
I had three time goals, race a personal best, race a personal best that would make me the fastest Female 20k American at the Olympic Games, race a personal best that would equal or surpass the Olympic A Standard of 1:33:30. My current best 1:34:52 was 4:44.4 km pace and an A Standard would require 4:40.4 pace. I knew I was in the best shape of my life, I could easily see it in my training, especially my last set of 10x 1k the week before where Coach Tim walked next to me. I knew that the A Standard was possible, maybe a little ambitious but hey this is the Olympics, what did I have to loose? I knew I was in peak condition, the course was proving to be fast, the competition would be strong, and the crowd would be encouraging.
Once I saw fellow USA Teammate John Nunn cross the line it was time to seriously get ready to head to my race, my Olympic Race! Normally I race so early in the morning that I roll out of bed and into my racing uniform. Some of my TEAMmates always shower before racing, they say it helps them wake up. For what ever reason, I felt I needed a pre-race shower. So off to the shower it was, then it was time to put on my racing uniform, my Team USA bra top and matching red buthuggers. I always get a rush when I put on my USA uniform on race day, today it was a rush for sure! It was time to braid my hair in my classic three braids tied back in a red, white, and blue rubber band. I made my race mix drink and labeled my bottles! The excitement was building to say the least! I packed up my race back pack, checked to make sure I had my stretching rope, massage stick and a change of clothes. A smile spread across my face as I zipped my bag shut with my customized Dream Believe Become keychain from my cousins, a little present that symbolized my dream while reminding me of the support and family I have back home. I slipped my bag on my back and headed down to meet our Team staff that would be accompanying me to my race.
I had agreed with the head women’s coach, Rose, the day before that we would take the 2:30pm shuttle over to my 5:00pm start race. It’s much earlier than I would normally prefer to go but we had a 40min bus ride to the race course and incase there was traffic I was advised to be on the 2:30 shuttle. I wanted to get on the bus 15min early because many of the other race walk girls I knew competing that day had the same game plan. We got to the bus, there were still plenty of seats but it was rather warm on the bus. Okay, I think warm was an understatement. I wound up drinking an entire Liter of water on the bus! There was no point in stressing over it being so hot and unpleasant on the bus, after all half of my competitors were sweating through the same conditions I was. I plugged in my earbuds, and listened to my pre-race playlist. The perfect balance of relaxing yet pumping up inspiration. By the time we arrived one of the Irish Coaches had sweated through his t-shirt! I told Coach Rose, well at least when we get to the race it will feel like the AC is on outside! And sure enough that’s exactly how it felt. I had to pee 4 times before getting to the starting line. I guess the bus ride ensured I was fully hydrated, good thing we arrived so early so I had enough time to visit the bathroom that often! Back in my USA tent my fellow TEAMmate Trevor met up with me and the staff. He told me that Tim was around and would show me where he was if I wanted. This was one of the first races I would get to have my own personal coach, Tim, coaching me in the stands live. I was able to speak with him before the race, he reassured me I was in the best shape of my life and couldn’t stop telling me how excited he was for me to race! Meeting with him was both reassuring and motivational!
My prerace warmup was mainly stretching with about 12min of race walking. We had access to a very limited maybe 200meters of the race course. The surface wasn’t great, it was very unlevel and congested so I decided to finish warming up in between the athlete changing tents just behind the race course. Then before I knew it, it was time to enter the last call tent 20min before race start. Here we were not allowed to have our race bags, ropes, or massage sticks. I already knew to expect this because I had warmed up with Trevor last week for his race and watched him go through the frantic call room experience. I was thankful that I knew to expect frantic call room officials and would not be surprised by this “no bag in the call room” rule. All I had with me was an extra water bottle and was now stripped down to and only wearing my racing uniform. I exchanged pre-race chit chat with TEAMmates Rachel (Canada) and Sabine (Germany). It was great to have these girls in there, because it offered a sense of familiarity. Then 7min before race time we were brought out to the starting line. We really weren’t permitted to do strides or anything which just meant that there was a lot of nervous bottled up excitement corralled into a tight space waiting to be unleashed for another 6min! The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) chose 10 women to stand on the front of the starting line (typically the top 10 ranked athletes), the rest of the 61deep field of competitors filed in behind them. Seeing as I was ranked 55th going into the competition I took a place in the back of the pack so as not to get caught going out too fast and trampled.
The commands were given and the gun went off…
Stay tuned for my own lap by lap commentary of what was going through my head lap after lap as the race unfolded!