My First Track Meet! (recap)
NOTE: this was supposed to be published a week ago!! I am sorry. 🙁
All photos in this post were taken by Mr. Stanhope, our team photographer 🙂
Okay, people. Prepare yourselves, because this is a good old-fashioned rant. I’ve cut this story down as much as possible, and I’ve tried my best to keep it interesting. However, I don’t expect you to sit through the whole thing because I’m not sure even I would! Yet, if you mean to read through to the very end, get comfy. This could be a long ride.
Well, as I mentioned once, then twice, then a third time, my cross country team is trying an experimental track team this spring. We’re a homeschooled team, and we are associated with the Fellowhip of Christian Athletes. Thus, we call our team FCA. Being a part of it has been interesting and beautiful. The first meet for the high school team had been put off because we didn’t get into a school we’d wanted to be able to race against. Because of God’s grace, though, we got a meet for the next week, Tuesday the 12th! I’m excited to tell you all about it, as it was sort of a milestone (pun intended) for me as a runner.
Training for track has been a lot different than training for cross country. As I began the cross country season, I didn’t know what to expect as far as racing and training schedules and PR’s and all that. Since I didn’t know all that, I went into cross country as a novice, learning as I went along. Going into the track season, I decided I wanted to get more committed with my training and so had been working out four to five days a week, while upping my mileage (how many miles I run a week). This first meet has taught me, though, that track really is different from cross country, and the way I experience it is going to have to be different, too! I can’t learn everything at once! It has to be a process, just like it is for everything else.
On the day of my meet, I was a little nervous, but I wasn’t even close to being as nervous as I am for cross country meets. But then we actually got in the car to go to the meet, and that’s when it hit me. I’m going to race today. Cue the positive side of my brain that talks me into running and racing: you love running. Just go for it! My body knew otherwise, though: racing = dying. I took a deep breath and tried to ignore both voices, viewing the future objectively.
We arrived and I warmed up with my team. It was strangely relieving to know that I wasn’t alone in my nervousness: the glazed-over expressions on my teammates’ faces told me all I needed to know. With open mouths, we watched some of the first events. That looks super painful and yet I’m about to do that, I thought to myself. Soon, it was time to put our track spikes on, which is runner-code for the pain’s coming soon.
(Forgive me for not reposting it, but the photography challenge that Lauren, Petra, and I are doing has been continuing, and March was “color”. I actually took a picture of my spikes for that month, read about it here. 🙂 )
Gathering for a group huddle, there were legitimate butterflies in my stomach. The eight girls around me who would be racing the mile with me surely felt the same. Coach asked me to pray, and my voice was choked up and shaky. Lord, please don’t let me cry! Following my prayer from a hurting heart, another girl prayed invigoratingly and I felt stronger just hearing the words. My dad came up behind me and squeezed my shoulders, saying something along the lines of “excited to see you race” or something like that. Each breath I took was shaky and my sole train of thought was don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry.
Then we got to the starting line and I was, to my surprise, ready. I took a deep breath and watched the starter raise his gun. Time froze. Wait for it…go! And we were off!
(I am in the far left lane on the far right side, in the hot coral spikes.)
Racing the mile is a unique experience, because it’s short compared to a cross-country race, yet long in a way because you have to get through four whole laps. Even thought I’m generally not a super competitive person, I didn’t necessarily want to be last in the whole race. So, my goal was to stick with my running buddies, Molly and Sadie, through the whole race. This is why, in all the race photos, I’m hiding in a way because I’m sticking so close to them!
(I am on the far left, Molly is in the middle, and Sadie is on the far left. Yes, I realize I’m midair.)
In all the hullabaloo of being at our first meet and racing for the first time in months, we started the mile too fast, to be sure. My heart was beating way too fast and my breathing was much to heavy after just the first lap. This made the second lap hard, because I knew I couldn’t hold the pace I’d started the mile at, yet I still wanted to be fast and do my personal best today. Turns out, the second lap was my slowest lap, proof of the mental battle going on within me.
My dad, a former track and cross country coach himself, was cheering me on and gave me some courage when I began lap three. We have this ongoing conversation about how the third lap in the mile is the hardest from a mental perspective, so he’s told me all the (2) times I’ve raced the mile on a track, “push this! This is the hardest lap, so stay focused!” I nodded at him when I heard it and raced on. There are just a few voices I truly pay attention to when I run: my Coach’s, my dad’s, and perhaps a friend or two, depending on the race. Everything else gets tuned out. How I wish I could learn to do this in everyday life!
Lap three came and went, and soon we were at the last 400 meters. It gives me chills just thinking about it. Something you have to understand before I continue is that our team of nine girls racing the mile (there are a couple of others who weren’t able to run that day) was divided up into three or four “packs” of girls who run at about the same pace. Molly, Sadie, and I were one pack, while the ever-famous Lauren and two other lovely ladies made up the pack ahead of us, meaning that more times than not they beat us by tens of seconds. I had high hopes for this first race, but in none of my daydreams did I imagine what happened next.
150 meters into the fourth lap, I realized we were starting to catch Lauren and her pack. We got closer and closer until a kerfuffle happened – somewhere in the mix Lauren got accidentally “spiked” but not injured – which gave us a greater lead. The last 200 meters of the mile were chaos and beauty intertwined. Six FCA girls finished within seven seconds of each other, something that I never thought would happen. We all got a new personal record (PR). Molly got a 49 second PR and I got a 47 second PR. To answer the lingering question, no, I did not beat Lauren. But the fact that we all finished together was so special to me. And yes, the tiny sliver of my heart that is competitive was quite happy. 🙂
(Our team huddle after the mile. We’re all exhausted and leaning on each other, which I find sweet. I’m #716.)
All good things come to an end, though, and my moment of victory was soon eclipsed by the pain following the end of the race. When I race hard, there’s a whole scientific thing that takes place (and is too complicated for me to think about right now) that causes me to have one, some, or all of the following side effects . . .
- lung aches
- uncontrollable coughing
- throwing up
Unfortunately, I experienced all of those side effects after the mile. To add to that, I had muscle strain/tendonitis (we’re not sure which it is yet) in my left hip, which was causing me to limp. In the forty-five minute span between the end of the mile and the beginning of the 800 (half mile, the second event our team would be racing), I recovered from the running side effects, but not from the muscle strain. After talking to my coach and jogging a bit, it was decided that I would not be racing the 800 or the 4×400 relay. 🙁 😥 It stank. Coach said at our next practice, “my least favorite part in all of coaching is the athletes’ injuries.” The athletes don’t like it very much, either, let me tell you what! God had a plan, however, in all of this. We’ve pretty much determined that I’m not dealing with a serious injury here, but my hip is tired and needs rest. So I’ve been resting. 😀 And He’s been showing me mercy in healing me, little by little.
Wow. So there’s my essay on my first track meet. You’ve all been with me this long, so you know how I am, how I write, and how I process things through writing. This is just another page in my gigantic journal of life. Until the next entry, friends.