Yesterday marked the first major race of the season. As I mentioned before, my coach and I decided to move my opener to an earlier date because of my “first race curse”. Coming out of the Mustang Challenge further proved the legitimacy of this curse, thus bringing me to my second race in Washington. I was glad my coach decided to bring me to Washington despite my previous performance, and I was excited to show a progression in this race.

Thursday, I mentioned I have been preparing all week for this race by carbo loading and studying the course. We had a solid plan and I knew if I started out conservative then progressively pushing more, I would be successful as far as improvement goes. Before this week, I was focused on a specific time, but realizing I am still early in the works of my fitness, I decided to run a strategic race and pick bodies. I am a rhythmic runner and usually start out slower, so we decided it would be best to not put me with a specific group, but rather, start out conservative and then by two kilometers get with the first pack of girls I see.

From the get go I realized it was going to be a faster race than planned. I’m usually good at getting out and holding the relative position I’m in, but this time was different. The pack hardly seemed to back the pace off, and before I knew it I was in the way back. I could see two teammates several groups away, but I figured it was best to stay with the plan and remain patient. I came through the mile around 5:30, knowing this, I decided to shift the plan and remain conservative up until the 3k-where I would then focus on getting with my teammates. In the period before the 3k, I focused on remaining focused and passing bodies. I kept repeating”Stay in your own lane” to keep me from getting impatient and abandoning the plan.

At the 3k, mark I immediately changed gears and literally made an imaginary rope as I reeled people in with my thumbs. I had two teammates in site and I knew I had to get to them before the 4k. This shift in gear felt great, almost natural, and weirdly enough I felt no pain. When I got to one teammate, I urged her to go with me and worked towards reaching the next. When running the course the day before, I made note to utilize the up and down hills- especially after the first loop, most of them seemed to be around turns, so I knew they would be perfect spots to make moves. When I reached the turn before the hill, a girl next to me stepped on my heel and pushed me. Luckily, I was able to keep myself from falling and immediately recovered. In the past, this would have thrown off my entire race, but this time I didn’t let it-instead, it fueled me. After pushing me, she tried putting pressure on me and I wouldn’t let her have it; I was not going to let her disrespect me and then pass me. Rather, I responded and pressed harder-before I knew it she faded. 

Just before the 5k, I got to my other teammate and again urged her to join me as we approached the last mini-downhill and turn. At that turn, I knew I had about 600 meters until the finish and that is my favorite spot to make my last and strongest move. Again, I had two teammates in site and I pushed with all my might to pass bodies and get to them. Unfortunately, the finish came sooner and we finished off with a 3 person gap.

Despite my place and time, I am proud of my performance because there was a major improvement from the last race. There are a few things I wish I did differently, such as go a bit harder; I took conservative to the extreme. I finished feeling as though I could run another race, which I know is both good and bad. Luckily, I have two weeks to improve, but I am currently standing as our 9th girl, which may cause me to not go to Wisconsin. Regardless, I am looking forward to post season and keeping my spirits high.

Just Keep Running. XOXO

Ashlee Powers