Getting up at 6am on a Saturday, as a college student is an oxymoron, unless of course you participate in NCAA Division I athletics. Then, it is like brushing your teeth – a daily routine that when missed leaves you feeling like you forgot to do something. Sure, this lifestyle is NOT for everyone, but for those who commit, there are plenty of rewards. Case in point: PAID TO TRAVEL. While I knew I would be afforded the opportunity to travel and represent the Baylor Bears on the cross country course and big red oval, I did not realize that we would be paid to do so. Yes, you read that correctly (click link for more info).
I think of Johnny Cash (to a certain degrees) and his song, “I’ve been everywhere“, during my time at Baylor I ran in Arkansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota. Each trip we were given money referred to as “per diem” to pay for food, while away from campus. If you’re savvy you can bring easy to pack snacks and save some dinero for yourself.
Of all the places I traveled to compete, my favorite trip was to Stanford University to debut in the 10K at Stanford Invitational. For starters, I got to miss Thursday and Friday classes (although not as great as it sounds because I had to take an exam earlier than the rest of the class). After we all raced the plan was to check out San Fran and spend part of the day at Half Moon Bay and explore. But first, we had to take care of business.
Not going to lie…I was more than nervous as this would be my first ever 10K and if the wheels fell off, 25 laps is a slow, painful death. To make things more interesting, the race didn’t start until 11pm! Coming from central Texas, that would feel like 1am! If this race wasn’t going to be a joke, it would take an act of God. My teammate and I warmed up in the dark and made one last poop run.
Put 31 skinny girls on the track for 25 laps of fury and it makes for a traffic jam once the gun goes off. But, I can’t say I blame track officials for cramming so many of us into one heat – who really wants to sit through TWENTY FIVE laps?! We had a clean start, nobody got tangled up and ate the track…check. I’ll save you the boring details; long story short: that race ended up being a miracle and to this day my first collegiate 10k remains my personal best time – 34:56.
Post-race, pre-cool down. Relishing in the glory of a job well done. Katie Shaw (right), a.k.a Katisha, was my training partner during my sophomore and junior years. Quick witted and always has a smile on her face. By the time we made it back to the hotel it was close to 2am. I tried to fall asleep but the adrenaline was still flowing. I probably slept 4 hours before waking up to the west coast sunshine. Our other teammates were headed out for a Saturday long run; I tried to run 20 easy minutes to shake out some soreness but it felt as if my calves had been put through a meat grinder. (Stupid Sam brought middle distance racing spikes, instead of racing flats, forcing me to run 6.2 miles on the balls of my feet, no heel contact. I learned my lesson). I walked for 10 minutes and went inside to grab some grub before my friends returned and we headed to San Fran.
Obligatory frolicking pic. Left to right: me, Katish, Cathy, Kiks and Lauren. The unique aspect of distance running is that some days you have great days and your teammates don’t and vice versa. The plus: there is always a reason to celebrate, even if you aren’t successful. At least, on the teams with good chemistry, that is the case.
We spent the afternoon shopping at quaint boutiques, and treated ourselves to lunch and ice cream (not something we had on the reg).
Other notable trips included my 5k debut at Drake Relays in Des Moines, IA, where my family was able to attend and I raced alongside teammates to a PR (personal record).
I have a memory etched in my brain of coming around the 100m point on my final lap with 300m to go until the finish line. I could hear my mom cheering and saw the race clock on the jumbo-tron; I knew it was going to be close (to running a regionals qualifying time). I gritted my teeth and all I could think was do or die. I crossed the finish line and stumbled to the in-field where I leaned over and grabbed my knees. My body was spent. It seemed like an eternity before I made myself look at the clock to confirm my finishing time. 16:48! I made it with four seconds to spare. I had punched my ticket to the Regional meet slated for Austin, TX, for a shot at qualifying for the NCAA championship meet.
Not all races were as idyllic as the two I mentioned, but isn’t that life?! You win some, you lose some. The times we don’t achieve the desired result allows us to reflect and grow so that next time we are up to bat we don’t strike out. All in all, I am grateful for the chance I had to earn my degree, run and see some of God’s green earth, in the process.