Eugene Half Marathon Weekend & Oiselle Meet Up
The WHOLE Experience
I flew to Eugene on a terrible United flight. As the turbulence made my stomach feel like it was going to come up from my throat, I thought about what this race meant to me. It was going to be my first real race (longer than a 5K) on my knee, it would be my first race at a slightly heavier weight (5 extra lbs of injury weight), it would be the first race where I wouldn't know people on the course (except the Oiselle girls that I would meet about 24 hours before), it would be the first race where Chris wouldn't be a 10 minute drive from (despite what he thinks, he is always my saving grace after a bad race).
What expectations would the girls have of me? What expectations would I have of myself? What if I ran a really crappy race? What if my knee hurt? What if I disappointed, not only myself, but the new friends I would meet? What would they be like? Would they be really intense? Competitive? Friendly? Cliquish?
None of the thoughts that I had were very positive. I tried to swallow my stomach and not think about it for the rest of the flight. But it began to consume me. (Typical Type A). After the flight landed in Portland, I ran to the other flight (to Eugene), where I sat next to a girl (don't even remember her name). I ended up riding to the expo with her (random stranger) and her husband. They were both personal trainers from Ohio and this would be her 14th marathon. All she could talk about was her homemade Quinoa and some 'reset' diet she was trying.. and all I could think about was meeting the Oiselle girls for the first time. Her husband pointed out a sheep farm, where I noticed the sheep walking in the sunlight - I'm not sure why I remember this, but I thought of their future. It didn't look hopeful with the giant red X spray painted on their sides. Glad I'm a vegetarian.
I walked into the expo and found a saving grace. Holly. I knew her from Houston, local races and she was on the Oiselle team. I began to feel comfortable. I broke into the conversation and before I knew it - girls were hugging me, recognizing me from Twitter, asking how the flight was - nothing but smiles. I was really surprised how friendly everyone one. I'm not sure why I felt I needed my guard up. As I've gotten older, its become more of a habit to guard myself. Running makes me feel so vulnerable. Maybe this wasn't going to be such a bad race. After walking through the expo, I met Sarah *Lime* (I love her) for the first time. For some reason I thought she would be more standoffish and shorter. But she basically scooped me up in a big 'welcome to the madness' hug. Again, a little of my guard came down.
Lauren Fleshman, an amazing elite runner sponsored by Oiselle was speaking at the Expo. The Oiselle team took over the last few rows of seats. I was in awe of her. I had seen her race on TV, computers and like a creep googled pictures of her finishing and winning races. Here she was, in person pretty much 5 feet from me. On a team that I was also on. She went over 4 topics, but the main topic was how to control what you can and how to let go of things you cannot. I was sitting in the middle of the row, surrounded by Oiselle girls - all laser focused and hanging on to her words like a last breath, and finally Lauren said something that struck me like a lightening bolt. She said that when things get tough during her runs and races - she repeats this: I am athletic. I am graceful. I am explosive. Lately, I have been really struggling with my confidence since I hurt my knee. My paces have slowed, my weight jumped up (on my small frame its a lot), my motivation has been shot. So her candidly talking about how she has 'bad thoughts' during races - was something I could relate to and something I didn't know elites also struggled with. Her mantra would be something I would repeat during the race.
|I am 3rd from left on middle row.|
|HOUSE: Me, Meghan, Robyn, Kristina, Sarah & Emily - Post Race|
|Robyn my roomie. <3|
I shot out of bed at the ass crack of dawn with Robyn. I started to feel my race morning anxiety. I needed to calm down, I needed to remember that.. I am athletic. I am graceful. I am explosive. I was ready in a heart beat. This was it. No turning back now. No excuses. Sarah *Lime* and I ran the 1.5 miles to the race start as our warm up. It was uphill. This short 1.5 mile run reminded me very quickly that Houston is uber flat. My lungs were already parched with air. We met up with the Oiselle girls and Nuun girls. Everything went by so fast. We quickly made our way to bag drop and the porta-potty. At the porta-potty I told Sarah to have a great race, and actually ran into Andrea. Jeez. Oiselle girls seemed to be everywhere. Andrea and I made our way over to the corral. We stood there during the moment of silence, I kept looking at my shoes. Mentally giving my feet a pep talk. Touching my ring, thinking about Chris and what he would tell me. "Eat mileage for breakfast". When we started to move forward, I wished Andrea the best of luck - and told her I'd see her at the finish!
I crossed the start line in the typical stop and go movement. I knew I shouldn't shoot for a PR (knee drama) but I didn't want the Oiselle girls to think I was a slow runner. The pressure. Once the crowd started to spread out a bit, I took off (at least thats what it felt like). I was flying over the pavement. I remember taking the second right turn, through the neighborhood and I took the tangent like an elite runner, there was no slowing down as I leaned into the curb. This was awesome. I looked at my watch 8:25 pace. Doable. The first few miles seemed to fly by. One thing I was concerned about was the water situation. Being from Texas, I am really used to water stations at least every 1.5-2 miles. I am not sure if I missed the first water station or what - but I had already barreled over the 5K mark, was at mile 4.7 and needed some water. STAT. Finally the next water stop came up and I took a Gatorade and a water *double fisting* (unheard of for me but was worried about where the next stop was). I flew over the 10K mark at an average pace of 8:37. Doable. I had my sights set on this girl in orange shorts in front of me. Kelli the predator was coming out to play. I locked in on her orange shorts and told her (under my breath) "I'm coming for you". She took the right turn tangent really well, I followed suit.
Holy Shit. After that turn my eyes followed the road ahead of her. The road literally went straight up into the sky. Okay, I exaggerate a little bit. But it was a HUGE hill. Compared to what I run in Houston. I had figured the race would have some small inclines but this hill was completely unexpected. Okay, I thought to myself.. How the hell was I going to tackle this hill, keep my pace, keep Orange shorts in my sights, finish strong, deal with my knee.. Thoughts swirled in my head.. I was only at mile 8. I knew I'd need to save my legs for the finish. The hill broke into three segments. Run up, flat section, run up #2, flat section, run up #3, flat section (downhill). I began to barrel up this mountain. Lungs said nope. I began to huff and puff. I made it to the first flat section and slowed down to catch my breath. I ran (much slower) up the second section, got to the second flat bit and stopped running. I stood there and watched orange shorts gracefully fly up this hill and disappear. People were walking, bent over at the waist...and I was one of them. Run Kelli. I saw a woman (Laurels mom) dressed in Oiselle and ran towards her - she said hey you ok? I don't remember what I said, but I am sure it was a mix of gargly sounds and me gasping for air. She smiled big told me to keep it up - and pushed through the third part of the hill. I got to the top of the hill and was REALLY excited for the downhill. I knew that I could really pick up my cadence, lean into the the downhill and make up some serious time that I had lost. WHERE IS THE DOWNHILL? No where in sight. We kept running through the woods (gorgeous course) and my legs began to feel like lead. Its like I couldn't pick them up to take a full stride. I hit mile 9.5(ish) and HURRAY the downhill. Go Kelli. Run your ASS OFF. I tried my best to pick up my foot strike and lean into the down hill. Unfortunately my legs had made up their mind. They were tired and shot from the hill. It seemed like I was dragging. My legs were completely done. I could start to feel every step. Like I was the jolly green giant stomping on the ground. Girls started to pass me. (If you know me, I don't like it when I get passed up. I typically pick up the speed and finish strong, but I had nothing).
|Emily, JJ & Meghan - Oiselle Cheer Squad|
I saw the Oiselle girls at mile 9. They started to scream and all I said was "I didn't fly all this way not to get my medal". I guess I said that because I was already thinking (at mile 9/10) to drop the race. I couldn't drop. I was 3 miles away. One loop at Memorial Park. Come on Kelli Run.
I am athletic. I am graceful. I am explosive. (Well maybe not explosive right now, nor graceful, but I am an athlete and athletes FINISH.) Mile 11-12 sucked. My pace was the slowest its been in about a year.
Mile 13 seemed to drag on for all of eternity. How long can a mile really be - I kept asking myself this over and over. Then I started to see the crowds. Finally, Hayward Field. I took out my headphones that I put in around mile 6 to distract me. I heard the announcer calling out names. I started to funnel in toward the entrance of the field. The field that so many elite, amazing athletes had started their careers. The field the Steve Prefontaine ran. I had 200 meters to go. Once my foot hit the soft and bouncy track, I gave it everything I had. My lungs were going to explode. My legs were refusing to work. My heart was going to jump out of my chest. I saw the clock and it registered that I would not PR, and I think I crossed the finish line with a really pissed off look. The volunteer grabbed me and asked me if I was ok. All I could muster up to say was "water".
2:03:47 To some people, a great time. To me, a terrible time. But I have to remind myself that I had a knee injury, I ran up what seemed like a mountain, I didn't know the course, and I didn't drink any water. They all seemed like excuses.
|Post Race Beers & Cider|
After the race my guard came completely down. I felt no pressure and began to really chat the girls up. I finally felt like I could breathe a huge sigh of relief. I may have had a really crappy race. But none of the girls judged me. Actually it was the opposite. One of the girls (JJ who I adore) told me she was really proud of me. It almost brought me to tears. Its been a REALLY long time since I was really proud of my race results. I had another conversation with a Oiselle team mate (Stout) when we were waiting for the bathroom. She gave me so much confidence. She made me realize my BQ isn't too far fetched. Robyn, when we had our last night in the house - she really gave me a boost to trust my training. Meghan also made me feel like I could absolutely run a BQ. And her chip salad is pretty remarkable. :)
All in all the Oiselle girls are supportive. Awesome. Crazy fast. They are like family now... I love each of em! They gave me a renewed confidence, a new trust, a new ability to reach my goals. I left Eugene with a pride that I haven't had since I hurt my knee. I credit the team and the Oiselle company/brand for bringing a really badass group of girls together. I'm proud to be on a part of the Oiselle story. BQ here I come. When is the next Oiselle meet up??
Ok - My fingers hurt from typing.. Here are post race pictures. I'll update when the official race photos are published.
|I didn't want to leave. Actually we had a few bad omens of broken glass.|
|Jocelyn & I after the race!|
|Post Race Oiselle Team|