USATF Masters 5k Road Champion

I can’t help but feel like lightning struck twice.

Nothing beats a welcome home poster after a long flight

I spent the weekend in Syracuse, NY, for the USATF Masters 5k Road Championships, a race within a race hosted by the Syracuse Festival of Races 5k. This is a fantastic event, in its 24th year, led by race director extraordinaire Dave Oja. I cannot say enough about how well organized and supported the whole weekend felt. And I didn’t even take advantage of the host hotel amenities. Started in 1993 as an offshoot of an earlier race, the Syracuse Festival of Races 5k has cultivated record-breaking performances for the last 24 years.

This year was no exception. There were four American records broken, one of which also set a world masters record (Kathy Martin, age 65, with a time of 19:57). And 80-year-old Libby James broke the women’s 80-84 American record, running the 5k in a time of 25:14. Imagine that, running a 5k at 8:07/mile pace as an 80-year-old. Incredible! See the full story on Runner’s World here.

Syracuse also ended up being the perfect location for a travel race. It’s a big enough city to have an airport, yet a small enough town that even downtown hotels had airport shuttle service. So I flew in easily and didn’t need a rental car. And therefore chose to stay at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel (instead of the race’s host hotel) to be closer to the course. It’s pretty much right on campus.

Syracuse University

Thanks to my Starwood Preferred Guest status, I even made the Club Lounge level. This meant breakfast in the morning and snacks in the evening. But the best thing about it? Unlimited espresso. I could not have been happier to see that machine.


Bring it on, jet lag. Bring it on.

Though rain was forecast throughout the weekend, it seemed that the bulk of it fell overnight on Saturday. So race day arrived with muggy but dry and warm conditions.

Syracuse Festival of Races 5k Prerace

Heading to the course, aka, why I don’t take more selfies

Having experienced the alternative, I really appreciated the amount of race support provided at this event. It sounds simple but even a tent for gear storage seemed like a luxury.

USATF masters 5k road championships

The masters championship races always bring out a stellar field of runners.

Syracuse Festival of Races 5k

Photo by Bob Brock

The flat, fast course starts and ends at the Lampe Athletics Complex on the Syracuse University campus. Though I took the lead at the halfway turnaround point, these women are tough racers who aren’t going to give anything up easily. It took all I had to keep anyone from passing me in the last 400 meters.


Photo by Bob Brock

In the end I managed to hang on for the win on Sunday. But on any given day it could have been any of us. Which is the thing that makes these races so special. The camaraderie of the other runners is phenomenal. It’s not the winning or the records (easy for me to say, I don’t have any of those!), but the fact that we’re all out there training and pushing and hoping to get to race day prepared and injury-free. Congratulations to everyone on a terrific 5k race weekend.


Sundodger Invitational and how to race cross country

The leaves are changing. The rain is falling. So, you know what that means. It’s time to shake off that summer funk: cross country season begins again!


I opened my season on Saturday at University of Washington’s Sundodger Invitational. It was a Northwest cross country kind of day at West Seattle’s Lincoln Park with rain and mud and 284 of us sprinting 300m across a field to get to the place where the course narrows to a 5-foot-wide path. No polite road race starts (slower people in the back) here. Instead, due to the team-event nature of the sport, everyone starts together, lined up in starting boxes across a wide starting line. This is where things get dicey, and therefore makes the start one of the key elements to running a good cross country race.

Start of the masters race at USATF Club Cross Country Nationals 2015, photo by Michael Scott

Start of the masters race at USATF Club Cross Country Nationals 2015. Photo by Michael Scott.

Execute this well and you can settle into a pace and, if you’re on, continue to move up on the field. But get caught sleeping when the gun goes off (my usual M.O.) and you get stuck in the pack. When there are 284 people in the race, this means getting tangled up in the sea of legs and racing spikes, running a slower pace than you want to run, and spending valuable energy surging around others to improve your position. Due to an outside box position and a determination to go out hard, I actually managed to get a good start on Saturday.

Then there’s the varying terrain. Sundodger’s 6K course covers a grassy field, gravel paths, and some muddy spots for good measure.


Last year’s Sundodger – Mike was on soccer game duty so no pics from this year’s race

Running on grass, gravel and trails uses stabilizing muscles that road running does not. I never thought much about tailoring my training to the different surfaces of cross country. But once I started running more on the trails around my house, I found it easier to handle the uncertain footing that changes in terrain create.


Last week’s long run included a two-mile tempo run at the park above. This began with a moderately paced 7-mile trail run getting to the park, two miles at 6:30/mi pace at the park, and 3 more miles to get home. Additionally, this is also the time of year when I swap out some track workouts for a rolling loop on local farmland.

Overall, and surprisingly to me, things went well at Sundodger. Training has been rough lately, but somehow things fell into place on Saturday. Though this was only the first meet of the season, I felt competitive amongst the college kids.


If you’ve been feeling stale on the roads lately, cross country is a fun alternative. This fall abounds with cross country opportunities. If you want to join a team, these local clubs all run cross country:

Club Northwest
Seattle Running Club
Eastside Runners

Then check out these local races this fall:

Saturday October 8, 2016: 43rd Annual Western Washington University Cross Country Classic
Saturday October 15, 2016: Emerald City Open
Sunday November 6, 2016: PNTF Open/Masters Cross Country Championships
Sunday November 20, 2016: USATF Northwest Region Open & Masters Cross Country Championships

The black lining to the PR rainbow

Black lining PR rainbow

Didn’t think there was any downside to a PR, did you? I know I didn’t. In my mind a PR should be nothing but pink unicorns and fairy dust. And it is, for the most part. But this summer I’ve stumbled upon the realization that it can also be an inadvertent ticket to crazy town. A ride on the PR-seeking crazy train, which, over the summer, has pulled me through the stations of doubt, fear, and mild injury.

I couldn’t figure out what had me in such a funk. A nagging hamstring strain had me questioning how hard I should be training. Which, in turn, probably meant that I wasn’t training as hard as I would under normal circumstances. Two local races resulted in completely lackluster performances. Then a friend posted this great article on the extremes of training for a PR that snapped my reality into focus.

Neither of these extreme states is the smartest, right? Uber-Fitness Mode might give you an amazing body but it can also result in unhealed injuries and (eventually) misery and abandonment if you don’t listen to your body. Meanwhile, Super Sedentary Mode gives you the Couch Body which eventually leaves you cranky with friends and family, and also unhappy when the extreme carb rush is over. (“Oh no. Look at me. What have I done? And why am I covered in powdered sugar?“)

The problem with a great PR is that it’s a rush that feeds itself. There’s no topping the feeling of exhilaration that happens when you see the magical number next to your name. You want more. You know you can do it again, with a few more miles, a little more work. And now, that thing you do because it makes you feel good and enhances your life? It becomes something else. The workouts ratchet. The stress builds. You worry that you’re not doing enough to run well in the next race. The chase for another PR is now an addiction.

My friends, as the amazing Lauren Fleshman put it here: “…there is no pot of gold waiting at the end of the achievement rainbow.

It’s time to step off the crazy train. In the past this has meant a swing of the couch-surfing variety. But I still have a 5k road race and cross country season on the impending calendar. I also have that hamstring thing that, incredibly, has not managed to magically go away on its own. It’s time to learn about the dimmer switch. It’s a mental shift of letting go, of enjoying the process and forgetting the results. Here goes nothing…

A day at Hayward Field: Olympic Trials edition

I never had Olympic dreams. When I was in my “prime” competitive running years, I never ran in any big meets. In high school I fell just short of qualifying for the state meet. In college I watched and cheered as friends and teammates competed at the Penn Relays, IC4As and, NCAAs. I was such an unremarkable runner that my high school counselor, in expressing his disbelief that I could possibly run competitively in college, said to me, “I mean, it’s not like you’re a world-class runner or anything.”

Suck it, Mr. Meredith.

Olympic Trials bib

Never would I have thought that I could compete in a field of runners this strong.

Olympic Trials Hayward Field

Photo by Mark Connolly (TigerIron)

Never, in a million years, would I have dared to dream of walking into a stadium filled with 22,000 track and field fans. While no one would call me unflappable, I can be a bit stoic about certain things. But filing into legendary Hayward Field and looking up at the packed stands took my breath away. I had to hold back the tears.

Olympic Trials Hayward Field

The thing, for me, about experiences like this is the soup of emotions that overwhelms my usual train of semi-rational thinking. Everything became such a blur that I even got lost on the track. Seriously.

How do you describe the event of a lifetime? The way it’s experienced, in completely disjointed terms.

Hayward Field big screen

Photo by Mark Connolly (TigerIron)

Where’s the finish line?

At any other track meet, the finish line is easily identifiable by the crowd of 3 people and the equipment surrounding it. In the distance events there is also a lap counter and maybe a coach reading off lap splits. At Hayward Field, however, people lined the stadium, equipment surrounded the track, and the stands pulsed with the cheering of 22,000 fans. On a 400m track, the 1500m does not start and end at the same place. And once we started racing, I completely lost track of where the finish line should be. Every turn looked exactly the same to me. It wasn’t until two laps to go that I heard or saw the lap counter and realized where the race would actually end.

Acting like the elites


My credentials granted me access to all areas of the venue. I whisked through security lines, walked right past Jackie Joiner Kersee (no pen/camera/phone with me – and let’s be honest, lacking the nerve to actually approach her – but I fangirled internally), and snagged ice cold water from athlete hospitality. What I came to realize, however, was that these backstage areas were a total pressure cooker. Jeez, people apparently get really intense when a spot on the Olympic team is on the line. So I ended up hanging off-site and with my girl Sarah Lorge Butler, who was there covering the event for Runner’s World. She wrote the sweetest story about us here.

Get out of my lane, Ashton Eaton


We owed our sell-out audience to the event finals surrounding our race: the 400m, the 100m, and the completion of the decathlon. While corralled into our secondary holding area we shared space and warm-up lanes with the decathletes, and I found myself striding right past 2012 Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton. Again, no pen, but fangirled internally.

Mom moment

I wonder how Galen Rupp gets to the track on race day? I arrived at Hayward Field via Albertsons, where I stood in the candy aisle choosing treats for my kids to throw at Bainbridge Island’s Grand Old 4th of July parade the day after the race. I had forgotten to do this before we left, and had to cover my ass in case we didn’t have time to do it the next morning.

My peeps


I feel so fortunate to have been able to share the experience with Mike and my kids. I don’t know if the kids took anything away from it (aside from some killer tats and cool autographs), but it meant so much to me that they could be there.

When the race of your life isn’t THE race of your life

Masters women 1500m Olympic Trials 2016 Hayward Field

It’s a fact: you’re not always going to run an awesome race. This was not my best race. Some of the reason for this was out of my hands (a little injury) and some of this was a complete breakdown in employing any sort of race strategy. Yes, I missed some key workouts and did not feel completely on my “A” game. But I could have done myself a favor and started a little more conservatively. I finished in 6th place, in a time of 4:51.82, and while I would have liked to have raced better, this day at Hayward Field was still the experience of a lifetime.

I cannot thank you all enough for your encouragement and well-wishes. Every single note of support meant so much to me and I carried all of your thoughts with me to that starting line. Peace out and I’ll leave you with a quote that a good friend just sent me:

“A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding.” -Steve Prefontaine

Olympic Trials bound

I’m in and it’s on. I made the cut for the masters exhibition 1500m at the Olympic Trials and am headed to Eugene, baby!

This is the glamorous face of it. A sweaty, hot mess working out in the afternoon to try to adapt to running at race time, which will be at 5:07 p.m. on Sunday 7/3. The full schedule of Track & Field Olympic Trials events can be found here.

Olympic Trials workout

Due to my quad issues and with the number of days to race day rapidly shrinking, I’m trying to fit in as many quality workouts as my body will allow. Several key workouts have fallen by the wayside in recent weeks and I feel considerably less fit than I want to feel. Yesterday was 2 sets of 3 x 300m to work on top-end speed and leg turnover.

How did it shake out? Meh. I struggled to hit times at the upper end of the goal range.

Set #1: 300m @ :53, :54, :55 with 2 minutes between intervals

Jog 400m

Set #2: 300m @ :54, :54, :56 with 2 minutes between intervals

Running in the afternoon simulated race time and forced me to run in the heat of the day, a one-day attempt to acclimate to the hotter temperatures in Eugene. It’s good to wait until the last minute and do it once, right? I always run in the morning and am therefore accustomed to temperatures in the 50s. This is the blessing and curse of living in the temperate Pacific Northwest. You can run comfortably outdoors year-round but good luck traveling anywhere else for a race. You’re frequently screwed.

Above all else I’m trying to remind myself to relax and enjoy the experience. There is an amazing group of women assembled for this race, and competing at storied and historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon among future Olympians is the chance of a lifetime. So many people have helped me get to this point. There is NO WAY that I could do it on my own. You’ll all be there with me as I make my way around that track. Live streaming of the event should be available at here.

Part 2: Pacing Rhody in the Brooks T7 Racer

Yo, Brooks. You totally nailed the T7 Racer.

Brooks T7 Racer

That’s my girl cheering me on.

This was apparent two weeks ago at Port Townsend’s Rhody Run, a fantastic destination race for those who like superb race organization and support, a stunning location (historic Fort Worden), and free beer. There’s even a family that offers a champagne stop along the course every year. Who says there can’t be joy in suffering?

Rhody Run 2016 start

Equal to the general cheering and encouragement I heard on the course were comments about the shoes.

“Nice shoes!”

“Go… wow, look at those shoes!”

I wore the T7 Racer for both the 12k Rhody Run and 8k Beat the Bridge. They’re lightweight but offer a little more cushioning than the Mach 17 Spikeless (currently on sale on the Brooks site!) that I wear for shorter distances (generally 10k and down). The T7s have been really popular and are a bit difficult to find these days as the new T7 model should be released this month. But I was able to find mine on Zappos, and they still have a good selection of sizes here. It’s a unisex shoe, ladies, so don’t go looking for the women’s version.

This shoe is so good that I saw a 1:37 improvement over my 2014 Rhody Run time. OK, maybe Brooks can’t take credit for all of that. Maybe there’s something to this whole pacing thing.

Apparently the phrase “pace yourself” isn’t just a meaningless platitude. I tend to run with the eternal optimism that if the first mile feels good, maybe the rest of the race will fall into a place with a big PR. Theoretically it makes sense. But in running, it doesn’t always work out that way.

The last time I ran this race I ran the first mile in 5:52. The rest of the race was a hot mess and ended with an average of 6:17/mile pace. This year, I was determined to prevent that misery from happening again.

Rhody race organizers shifted the race a week later to move it away from Seattle’s Beat the Bridge 8k, which has been on the same Sunday for the past few years. This enabled them to attract a standout field, which included Joe Gray (6-time USA Mountain Runner of the Year) and Drew Polley (Olympic Trials marathon competitor) on the men’s side, and Jamie Cheever (Olympic Trials-bound) and Emma Polley (Olympic Trials marathon competitor) on the women’s side. I had run the first mile of Beat the Bridge with Jamie and Emma the week before, and knew that would not be the path to a happy race this time around.

Orange was well represented too. Go Club Northwest!

Orange was well represented too. Go Club Northwest!

So, I held back and ran the first mile around 6:02, finishing the 12k in 44:36, averaging 5:59/mile pace. It was over a minute and half faster than the last time I raced there, and so much more comfortable. You really can’t argue with this strategy of racing.

The effort was good enough for 5th place, out of the prize money but the fun of the race more than made up for that. This really is a great race, and an easy ferry ride from the Seattle area. Mark your calendars for next May, and don’t forget to pace it.

Why I do CrossFit

Why do I do CrossFit? To compensate for doing dumb things like this first mile of yesterday’s Nordstrom Beat The Bridge 8k.

Beat The Bridge 8k

That’s me and a trio of Olympic Trials caliber women leading the first mile. It took me about three miles to decide that I really shouldn’t have been up there. But after training for the 1500m these past few weeks, that 5:30 first mile felt downright easy. Like something I could do forever. Or, as was the case yesterday, for approximately 3.5 miles. Unfortunately the race lasted another 1.5 miles, during which I slowed significantly and was passed by two women. But, and this is where my CrossFitting comes in, I had the strength to hold onto a podium spot in a race that is traditionally very competitive.

I do CrossFit

Fun fact: Half dude on the left next to winner Jamie Cheever? That’s Seahawk defensive end Cliff Avril, who, along with DE Michael Bennett, gave us our awards.

I’d love to say that I do CrossFit because I’m bold and brave and found it all on my own. The truth is: my husband made me do it. OK, not really, but he did find me my gym (his gym), CrossFit Outcome, and my trainer, Bethanee Randles.

Trainer extraordinaire. Photo by Pete Saluotos.

Trainer extraordinaire. Photo by Pete Saluotos.

When I started working out with her last July, I was worried that bulky muscles and strength would slow you down. Since then, I’ve set PRs in the 5k, 6k, 8k, 10k, and the 1500m. Apparently I was wrong.

Why do I do CrossFit? Three reasons.

Injury prevention. Ironically one of the biggest objections I hear from people (after the whole bulky muscles thing) is the injury factor. Don’t people who do CrossFit get hurt all the time? That’s why you need to find a trainer whom you trust, AND THEN LISTEN TO HER. According to this article on Breaking Muscle,

The stronger you get, the more resilient your body will become to the demands of running. The repetitive impact of running won’t wear you down as much. Plus, when you’ve got a strong body, any preexisting conditions will be less likely to worsen. This is because strength training helps to improve structural weaknesses in your body, whether in the muscles, joints, or connective tissues. Often, this will eliminate the source of many common running injuries.

Strength for speed. I’m no trainer, and don’t really know how this works, but I’m here to tell you that stronger muscles have meant faster times. backs me up on this here. When I started working out with Bethanee last July, I couldn’t string together two real push-ups. Now, at 42, I can even do a strict pull-up. I never thought I’d ever be able to do that.

CrossFit community. This is not just a public relations anecdote. My gym is a really great community of super supportive like-minded athletes and friends. How could I not want to be a part of that?

One of the best parts about this is that it doesn’t take a lot of time. I do CrossFit twice a week, for 30 minutes each session. It may not sound like a lot, but it gets the job done. What can you do in 30 minutes? Here are some sample workouts.

Workout #1

3 rounds of:
10 push ups
10 V ups

3 rounds of:
20 cal Assault bike
20 wall balls
20 kettlebell swings

Workout #2

4 rounds of:
8 dead lift
12 GHD sit-ups
15 plate raises
10 plank walks

Workout #3

4 rounds of:
5 back squat with 3 second pause at the bottom
10 good mornings
5 chin-ups
1:30 plank

Get to the gym. I’m telling you, you won’t regret it.

Race debt

It’s the sister ailment to the workout hangover: race debt.

It’s the week after a big race and you want to build on those gains that you must have made while racing. Maybe you tapered a bit and are ready to make up for that lost mileage. You’re fired up. You’re ready to focus on the next race. This is no time to rest, on your laurels or anything else. This is the time to strike!

And your body says, oh no, my friend, it’s time to pay some bills. Sleep debt, energy debt, and muscle debt are hungry creditors and all add up to one thing: race debt.

Lost sleep: If someone were to ask you, in the days leading up to a race, how you’re feeling, you’d answer with a resounding “great”. Because you ARE great. Cool as a cucumber. No problems. But your sleep says otherwise. Maybe it’s an hour less here, 30 fewer minutes there. But it’s less and that’s what matters. Then there’s the post-race night of sleep. You’re still fired up. No use stressing over sleep now, the race is over. What’s one more night? Congratulations, you’re now three nights behind.

Runs before the run: Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.


Mike calls this “The Fear Dump”. Whatever you call it, you’re probably losing some nutrients you don’t normally lose. And then there’s the energy you’re burning, the race day meal(s) you might be missing, and suddenly, you’re behind on fuel.

Race debt food debt

This was my post-race meal at XC club nationals, AKA too tired to leave the hotel to find real food.

This is definitely part of the problem.

Taxed systems: Yes, it might seem like your workouts are harder and longer than the race itself. But there’s something about a race that you can’t replicate in a workout. It’s part of the reason you run faster in a race. Your muscles are working harder. Your cardiovascular system is pumping faster. And when you go out for that long run the next day, or the day after that, and everything hasn’t returned to its regular state, you’re now borrowing against something you don’t currently have: a recovered body.

Now what? If you’re anything like me, you spend a week or two wondering (out loud, to anyone who will listen) why you feel like total crap. If you’re lucky, you get back on top of things and go about your merry way. If not, you get hurt. Or sick. And then, you do what you should have done in the first place: TAKE A BREAK.


It doesn’t have to be a long one. Maybe it’s an extra day or two more than you had intended. Or maybe it’s a week or three, depending on what you’re recovering from. Race debt is no joke; don’t let your mind tell you otherwise.

I was out for a couple of days this week with a wonky calf. On Monday I slept during the time I should have been running. Will that be enough of a break? We’ll see. I’m hoping to run Beat The Bridge on Sunday. Only time will tell. Race happy, recovery healthy, my friends!

A 1500m PR in the Brooks PR LD3

The last time I gambled I lost $80 playing the walnut shell game in Times Square. You know, the scam any idiot, especially a college student in her third year of living in New York City, should have known better to avoid.

Watching this now though, how can you afford NOT to do it? Everyone’s winning!

Which is a long way to say that I am not no longer a risk taker.

And therefore, was not super excited about rolling the dice on this weekend’s Ken Shannon Invitational track meet at the University of Washington. What I really wanted to do this weekend was run Bloomsday in Spokane. I raced it last year and had a fantastic experience. But with fewer opportunities to get my time down in the 1500m, and a good race at the UW, I had to ditch my Bloomsday plans. Instead, I took a gamble on whether or not I could even get into a race at Ken Shannon. As it turns out, I made it by the skin of my teeth.

Ken Shannon Invitational heat sheet

My seed time of 4:56 from the Doris Heritage Distance Festival last month had me ranked 16th out of 17 runners. That’s not a lot of wiggle room considering they were only going to run one heat of the race.

The great thing about being 16th out of 17 is that there would be a pack of runners to follow and plenty of runners who are faster than me. I was hoping they would pull me through to a sub-4:50 time.

Husky track, Ken Shannon Invitational

How cool is that Husky purple track?

They pulled me through to a 4:41.34
. I’ve mentioned before that this is not my optimal distance. I’ve never had shorter distance speed, not even as a collegiate runner. But I’ve been working on it over the past few weeks, on the track and in the gym, and was really excited about that number. I’ve never run that fast in my life; my best college time was a 4:52.

I definitely could not have done it without my coaches, training partners, and these Brooks PR LD3 track spikes.

Brooks PR LD3

You know what has changed since 1992? Spike technology, apparently. Before today, I had been wearing the same track spikes I had worn in college. What can I say? I am a total cheapskate and figured that a spike was a spike. Why buy a new pair of shoes when I have a perfectly serviceable pair in my closet? It didn’t seem like it would make a difference. Oh but I was wrong. The Brooks PR LD3 are lighter and faster than their 24-year-old compatriots and thanks to Brooks and Club Northwest, I’ve had the opportunity to see that for myself. They’re giving me a little gear this year.

Brooks gear with Brooks PR LD3

That’s Christmas in April right there

And opening me up to the possibility that there might actually be gear that is worth the investment.

After yesterday’s race I’m feeling a little more secure about my seed time for the Trials. But we wouldn’t be racers if we didn’t want more, right? I’m gunning for you, sub-4:40. Good luck to everyone at Bloomsday today!

On the podium at Carlsbad 5000

Given how Carlsbad 5000 weekend started, this is definitely not how I thought it would end.

Carlsbad 5000 2016 Masters results

This is how it started. Watching my plane as it pushed back from the gate.


I was supposed to fly down first thing on Saturday to make sure I had time to pick up my packet, check out the course, and chill out a little before the early start Sunday morning. It was a solid plan that had worked for Club Nationals in December. Because of spring break and the dearth of non-crazy-expensive flight options getting to Carlsbad, I would fly into LAX, rent a car, and drive the 90 miles to Carlsbad. I got up at 4:20 a.m. on Saturday to make sure I’d make it through security for my 7 a.m. flight.

But it’s spring break, yo. Despite my early arrival at the gate, no seat assignment = no seat. I was bumped.

After much gnashing of teeth and negotiating, I was re-routed from my nonstop Virgin America flight that should have landed in L.A. at 9 a.m. to a Delta flight that stopped in San Francisco and arrived in L.A. around 6:30 p.m.

I rolled into my hotel room at 9 p.m. Saturday night, no race packet, no course preview, no pre-race warm-up run. I’d have to leave the hotel at 6:30 Sunday morning to make my way to the course. Dinner was a chicken wrap gobbled in the car, chased by a large bagful of trail mix (only later did I ponder the downstream repercussions of all of that dried fruit and nut fiber). I was exhausted and dehydrated. Things did not look good.

After a fitful night of (little) sleep, it was game time.

Brooks racing flats

Trusty Brooks racing flats – holla!

One more wrinkle? No gear check for the 5k race.

Deep breath. One more hurdle. I could use the car to stow my gear, but was left with a giant rental car ring of keys. None of the individual keys could be removed, and the giant plastic #1 attached to the Hertz key chain was looking more and more like a big middle finger. I’d have to run the race holding the keys. There was no way around it.

I made peace with the situation and made my way to the starting line. And then… things started looking up.

Renee Tolan, whom I met at the Masters 5k XC National Championship race last fall in Saratoga Springs, NY, found me on the line. It was so great to see a familiar face amongst the crowd of strangers. And then she did something amazing. She took my keys. And handed them off to her friend. And suddenly, everything was okay.

Carlsbad 5000 masters women start

All race photos courtesy of Competitor Running. Photos taken by Justin Britton.



Carlsbad 5000 masters women leaders

I finished 2nd behind Julie Ertel, a two-time Olympian (in two different sports!) with a silver medal in water polo, with Renee right behind me in third. It was so great to share the podium with these ladies and spend the rest of my morning there with Renee.

The very best part of this whole experience didn’t end up being my time on the podium or the 1 second PR I managed to eke out. It wasn’t the pride of showing up to a big event and running well. It was the camaraderie of a fellow runner and a new friendship that really made my day.


Up next: Bloomsday in May. See you in Spokane.