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