“You can win this race. I’m not saying you’re gonna win, but you can.” -Coach Jerry Schumacher
Highs and lows this year
HIGH: winning the Wannamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in NYC
HIGH: Qualifying for Indoor World Champs in the 1500 and proving to myself I’m more than a steeplechaser
LOW: Getting injured at altitude camp and having to drop out of 3 key races including USA Champs
LOW: Not qualifying for the Diamond League final
HIGH: PRing in the 1k, 1500, and steeplechase and taking home 2 wins!
HIGH: Coming so close to out-kicking Jenny Simpson at 5th Ave to end my season in NYC
I had three major goals for 2018.
To qualify for Indoor World Championships in the 1500m (there is no steeplechase indoors, so I was shooting for my second-favorite event).
To NOT finish third at US champs- I had been 3rd in the steeplechase at USAs for the past 3 years and was ready for a breakthrough.
To qualify for the Diamond League final in Brussels.
I kicked off 2018 by winning the NYRR Wannamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in New York City, a race that I had been wanting to complete in for a few years now. It was my first time at this prestigious meet and I powered to the front on the last lap, barely outkicking my teammate, Kate Grace. After dealing with injuries all fall, that was just the confidence booster I needed coming into Indoor USA Championships. At USAs in Albuquerque, NM, my other teammate, Shelby Houlihan (now the American Record Holder over 5000m) out kicked me to the finish, leaving me in 2nd place with a spot on the USA team going to the World Championships.
First goal: accomplished!
Photos by David Bracetty
At Indoor World Champs in Birmingham, UK, I surprised a lot of people and qualified for the finals in the 1500m, giving me the chance to compete against the best 1500m in the world. Unfortunately, I let nerves get the best of me in the final and raced with poor tactics and very little poise or bravery, finishing 8th. Still- 8th in the world in an “off event” isn’t bad!
I took a short mental break from intense training after the indoor season ended before gearing up for a long outdoor season. My boyfriend, Kevin, and I took a short vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and enjoyed the sunshine and waves for 3 days. Then back to work!
The outdoor season began with a 1500m race in California at the Bryan Clay Invitational. Shelby took home the win, I followed right behind her, and Kate took a close 3rd. What a squad!
Then it was off to altitude camp for a month of training in the mountains. This time we went to Mammoth Lakes, California for 6 weeks of living at 8,500ft and training at 7,000ft- woof! The views were gorgeous and I was putting in a lot of hard work with my crew until I started feeling pain in my left foot… I got an MRI and found out that I had a stress reaction in my 2nd metatarsal. Bummer! I had to drop out of the Oslo Diamond League steeplechase, Prefontaine Classic Diamond League 1500, and then even the USA Championships.
Second goal: Failed- didn’t even make it to the starting line!
Injury is never easy, but I’ve had my fair share and I know what I need to do when I’m forced to take time off running: get in the pool! The mermaid life is one I know well and have embraced. (Click here to read about how I first got into swimming.) Even though I couldn’t workout on the track with the Bowerman Babes, I knew I was getting in good work swimming at high altitude. But after a couple weeks in the pool and my foot not getting better, I decided to leave altitude camp and go see my favorite doctor in Phoenix, AZ. Eventually my foot did heal and after cheering on my BTC teammates at USA Champs, I headed back home to Portland for a block of training.
Once I got to Portland, things really started turning around. My workouts were going pretty well, so my coach and I decided to make a kind of crazy, last-ditch effort to get me qualified for the Diamond League final and go out to Monaco for the last steeplechase of the season with points on the line to qualify for finals. Monaco was beautiful and the race was super fast (World and American records were broken), but I just wasn’t quite ready for that pace yet after having so much time off due to injury. I gave it my best shot, but came away with a 12th place finish, not earning any points for the final.
Goal 3: Nope
After Monaco I went back to Portland for more training and is when something special happened. All of a sudden my workouts were going GREAT. My body felt so good and dang, it feels good to feel good! I knew I was in PR shape, now I just had to find some good races to get in.
European Summer Part 2
First, I flew to Birmingham, UK for a quick 1k. The first race when you travel abroad can be a little rough, so we wanted to get in a short race and wake up my legs to get me primed for more important races in the weeks to come. From Birmingham I went to Chorzow, Poland, for a 1500m race. Here’s how that went:
Jerry (my coach) told me “You can win this race. I'm not saying you're gonna win, but you can.” The pacer went out WAY too fast, and immediately the race got super strung out. I found myself a few strides off of the pacer and the two women who followed her. Then with 500m to go I had caught up to the leaders and decided to make a bold move to the front, running completely blind with the rest of the field chasing after me. On the home stretch I could hear the crow roaring and I knew the Polish athlete (with a PR of 4:01) must be breathing down my neck. I pushed as hard as I could and crossed the finish line with my arms spread wide. It was so exciting! Later i found out that I even got a PR out of it, finishing in 4:03.02. As a pro, I haven’t had many opportunities to actually win races, so that was fun! I threw the bouquet of flowers to the crowd and took a victory lap. Thanks for the memories, Poland!
Next up: A week of training in my favorite European town, Leuven, Belgium. This was my 3rd time in Leuven and I absolutely love it. The food is great, architecture is beautiful, and there is a huge magical forest for running in. I had 7 days of great training in Leuven before my biggest race of the season, my last chance to PR in the steeple for the year, the ISTAF World Challenge in Berlin, Germany.
Berlin steeplechase: Another race that my coach told me I could win if I am smart and have a good day. The pacers for this race were slow, lagging on the pace from the very beginning. I followed right behind, trying to patiently wait and conserve my energy. When they stepped off the track with 3 laps to go, I knew I had some serious work to do if I wanted to run a PR. My legs felt so fresh and so bouncy that I knew I had a good finish in me. I pushed from the front for the last 1k and earned that win, breaking 3min for my last 1000m and breaking my pR by 5 seconds to run 9:10. Someone gave me an American flag and again I got to take a victory lap. “I could get used to this winning thing,” I thought… Time to head to New York!
From Berlin I went straight to New York City for the final race of the season: the prestigious NYRR 5th Ave Mile. This road race is the absolute best way to end the season. It’s a straight mile on 5th Ave in NYC from the Metropolitan Museum down to 59th st. Some of the best 1500m runners in the country and even the world come to NYC for this race because it is so well-run and so much fun. Jenny Simpson had won the event 6 times and was looking for her 7th. I was looking to dethrone the queen and earn my first 5th Ave win. What a perfect way to end the year after starting it with a win in New York at the Millrose Games. I gave Jenny a run for her money, chasing after her in the last 50m of the race when the rest of the field had given up, but it wasn’t quite enough to beat the experienced veteran. I came away with 2nd place, proud of having improved from my 9th place the year before, but also disappointed that I hadn’t executed my race quite the way I had imagined. I’m still learning!
Another thing that happened in New York that was really special for me: I hosted my first ever #FastBraidFriday pop-up braid bar where I invited my fans and followers to come to the Nike Running Store on the Upper East Side to get their hair braided by some local pro braiders. The #FastBraidFriday movement has really taken off this summer and I have been having so much fun seeing all of the braid pictures that people are posting on Instagram every week. #FastBraidFriday is all about doing something on the outside that gives you confidence and strength and courage to take on a challenge in your life and be brave. Having my hair braided makes me feel fast when I stand on the starting line, and it turns out I’m not the only one! Thank you to everyone who came to my event and thank you to everyone who made the event possible. For a full recap of the first #FastBraidFriday braid bar, click here.
When I ended my season in New York I felt like I could have kept it going. This is totally different from years past when I end the season feeling exhausted, burnt out, and injured. It felt good to end the season on my own terms, feeling healthy and strong. I’m enjoying some down time, indulging in my favorite treats (wine and ice cream) for a few weeks before getting into workouts again. I’m looking forward putting in a good base of training this fall that I can use to build off of during next year’s track season. During the fall I spend my free time volunteer coaching with the BTC youth cross country team (we have over 300 kids signed up this year!) and the Portland State cross country team (my second year with the Vikings). I also go back and forth between Portland and San Francisco where my boyfriend lives to spend as much time with him during the offseason as possible.
Thank you to everyone who supported me this year during all the ups and downs. It felt great to have so many people cheering for me both when I was on the podium and when I was in the pool. I appreciate you all sticking with me as I try to navigate the world of a professional track and field athlete. I couldn’t do it without the help of all my teammates on the Bowerman Track Club, my coaches, my medical support staff, and my boyfriend, family, and friends.
Cheers to the offseason!