This week, the cross country meet was at the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City. Though I can’t say anyone on the team was particularly looking forward to this course, seeing that it ends on an uphill, personally, I was eager to get a better time. In all my races thus far, I start off fast and slow down tremendously during the second mile and a half. Cross country is as much of a mental sport as a physical exercise. So my theory was that I simply needed to push myself a little more and ignore any signals coming to my brain about the fatigue in my legs. I also decided to dedicate this run to my brother, who had recently left for a year of studying abroad in London. I have learned to rely on his encouraging pep-talks before my meets. With my brother gone, however, I had to give that pep talk to myself. I reminded myself of his key phrases (don’t lose soultrons; when you think you can’t run any harder, run harder; etc.,). I also tried to stay optimistic. The temperature was nice and cool at 65 degrees (compared to our last run on the same course when it was 104 degrees); and large hay bales were piled on the side of the course. Many bystanders had climbed on the bales to cheer the runners on.
The cross country team lined up at the starting line. Our heart rates were high, as expected with our warm-up, buildups, and nervousness. I had made a resolution to stick with a friend who I ran with in practice but was often unable to keep up with during the race. The starter said “Ready?” and then raised his gun. Two seconds later the races had started. It was a snake pit trying to get out from the start line. There were over 300 girls in this race, all trying to get a fast start. My resolution to stick with my friend crumbled within the first 400 yards. As badly as I wanted to do well, my throat was dry and my legs were already screaming for more oxygen and energy. “Uh-oh” I thought to myself, “just survive this race”. By the time I got to the first mile mark, I was already 20 seconds behind where I wanted to be. A friend that I had stuck with for the first mile was slowly moving up as I struggled to maintain my current place. The various hills positioned around the course seemed to be targeting me and specifically sucking only my energy.
After conquering the third hill, however, I felt a little energy reenter my muscles. I decided I wasn’t going to throw this race away after all. I slowly inched my way up till I reached another member of my cross country team. I fought to stay with her for the rest of the race. Surprisingly enough, I was passing more and more people. By the time I got to the large hill that the race ends on, I kicked with all my energy. When I finished, I was struggling to breath and doubled over from exhaustion, but I had finished. I had gotten my second best time of the season. Even more exciting, I and had maintained a fairly consistent mile pace, rather than fluctuating like I don in most races. Compared to my last race on the course, I had improved my 4 minutes.
It was a victory. The whole team had done well with several girls getting their personal best. To celebrate, we all had cookies and fruit snacks. We also all climbed onto the hay bales and enjoyed our view.
All in all, my trip to the Ashton Course in Iowa City was pretty enjoyable. I got a chance to spend time with my favorite girls, and had an exciting end to a race that I initially thought was going nowhere!