Sunday, July 22, 2012

Brussels in 5 Hours

This trip to Belgium has been awesome because I have had more time and ability to explore the area compared to most track trips.  This has been possible because, first of all, we have a few days between meets.  Second, Belgium has a sweet public transportation system, and I am able to take the train to any city. 

In between Gent and Ninove I spent an afternoon in Brussels with a couple other runners who have met up with the Athletes In Action group I am following around, David Jankowski and Julian de Rubira.   We only got a quick walk of the center part of the city, but we got to see Manneken Pis (statue of a little boy peeing), Jeanneken Pis (statue of a little girl peeing), St. Michael’s church, the grand square, and have a drink at Delrirum, home of 2,000 kinds of beer.  I ordered a cherry kriek beer and some kind of strawberry beer cocktail.  I should have ordered a Delirium tantrum beer though, because it has been voted the best beer in the world, and some other Americans in the bar said they agreed with that statement. 

                                                      Grand Square
                                                            And Beer with Julian and Dave

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gent Steeplechase

I’m going to write a short blog about my Gent steeple.  I am taking two on-line classes this summer, and I am trying to finish final papers for each class.  I’m getting a bit stressed out trying to fit everything in!

                I was feeling uninspired going into the steeplechase race in Gent.  I was coming off a laborious 1500m, and I wasn’t sure this steeplechase would feel any better.  The weather was outcast and windy as we entered the stadium in Gent.  I was made fun of for all the clothing I had packed (it was sunny in Leuven, just an hour train ride away), but it turned out I was the only one from our group who was prepared for bad weather (very unusual, compared to other Minnesotans I am never ready for the weather). 

                The steeplechase started 20 minutes behind schedule, so everyone in the race was jogging around on the backstretch, doing strides.  When the gun finally went off, the pace was conservative.  No one wanted to take the lead in the wind, but Americans Stephanie Garcia and Aisha Praught worked together in the front.  Because the pace went out slow, it was very crowded the first mile. 
One woman who had been causing Bethany Nickless and me problems in the 1500m in Kortrijk was up to her old tricks again: swerving, speeding up to get in front of you, then slowing down, and clipping other racers.  With three laps to go the group finally thinned out.  Aisha Praught, Great Britain runner Lennie Waitte, and started to break away.  My shoe came untied with two and a half laps to go.  I was considering dropping out because my feet are so easily hurt, but I was feeling too good to stop.  I took the lead with two laps to go.  Lennie and Aisha passed me with 500m to go, and I passed Lennie over the last steeple barrier for a 2nd place finish in 9:57.  I felt very good during the race, and I was happy my body was able to go sub-10:00 without feeling awesome. 

                For a prize, I was given a bottle of champagne and $60!  They should do that more often in American track and field races!
                                                   At the train station with my champagne!

                The only downside was my foot was hurting pretty bad following the race.  I am scheduled to run the 1500m today in Ninove, but I’ll have to see how my foot feels after warm-up.  I don’t want to mess it up any more than it already is, but I only have two races left, and I want to run them!

Link to results.  Scroll down to mid-page.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Little Kortrijk 1500m

Scratch my claim in the last blog that I was not nervous for the race.  We show up to the train station in Kortrijk for the meet, get picked up at the station by some of the meet organizers, and stand in line to pick up our racing bibs (which turn out to be two large pieces of paper with our names on them to wear front and back of our jersey).  All the 1500m runners arrive around the same time, and I notice a bunch of Trials 1500m finalists are here, the three Americans who made the Olympic in the 5k, and a few Trials steeplers.  Turns out this is going to be a very good race. 

            The meet is very small and informal.  15 minutes before the start of our race, the 1500m runners began to gather at the start line.  We knew there were going to be two heats of the race, but we didn’t know who was in which heat, and which heat was going first, until a couple minutes before the race.  They decided to split the heats at a PR time of 4:16, so I was in the B heat.  We had a pacer going through the 800m at 2:16, so it was a great opportunity to PR.  From the gun I hung out in about 5th place.  As expected, there was a lot of jockeying for space, with people moving in front of my people, and then I would have to go around them to try and stick close to the pacer.  On the last lap, I got passed by my friend and fellow steepler, Bethany Nickless for her win, and I passed another woman in order to get second.  I ran 4:25, so I wasn’t very happy with the time, but I was happy I had stayed competitive during the race, and I am hoping I can feel better after shaking off some more jet lag.  I was happy I got to race in my sweet Oiselle jersey with a bright green bird image (USATF kept making the company change the image on the jersey for Olympic Trials until you couldn’t see the bird anymore).  I wasn’t alone in not being happy with my race; unfortunately a lot of the Americans ran a few seconds slower than their PR’s.  However, my Team USA MN teammate Gabe Anderson had a PR in the 800m at 2:02.83.  Awesome!  If you must see them, here are the results:

                                                Sweet Oiselle bird!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Home, Sweet Leuven Home

Leuven is peaceful – brink buildings, cobblestone streets, and many more bicycles parked on any given street than cars.  During the past couple days it rained in the morning, but has turned sunny by mid-day.  A set of bells in the town square signals time passing every 15 minutes.

I love buying food here.  We went to a large market in the town square on Friday, where I bought freshly homemade yogurt and brie.  I also came home with carrots and non-GMO strawberries. 

Bread in the market and the grocery store is baked, and then put through a bread slicer before your eyes.  I haven’t gone out to eat yet – we have been making group meals at the hostel, but the ingredients make the meals special, along with sharing it among friends.  I also enjoying the automatic macchiato/latte/cappuccino/espresso/coffee/chocolate coffee/hot chocolate with water/hot chocolate with milk/hot water machine in the kitchen of the hostel.  I have been drinking much more caffeine than usual because a delicious drink is just a button push away, frothed milk and all.

A couple nights ago we got to climb up to the bell tower and hear a concert performed on the carillons by the bell player of Leuven – an official position at the University.  We climbed up 200 steps for a beautiful view of the city and to hear an hour-long concert.  Carillon playing is an important part of Belgium history and culture.  After WWII, campuses in the United States began to create their own bell towers on college campuses after enjoying the beauty of them in Belgium.
                                                I got tired by the end of the night...

Today I am off to race a 1500m in Kortrijk, Belgium.  I am not too anxious about the race.  I want to get a good effort in after arriving in Belgium a couple days ago.  I felt pretty sharp in my pre-meet yesterday, so I’m hoping that can translate to some good racing over here.  At the same time, I am still yawning all the time and trying to get used to the time change.  There are a lot of good runners, and especially American runners, in the race.  I should have fun racing some of my steeplechase competitors in the race.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Flying in the Business Section is A Okay.

The few times I have flown internationally, I have had to walk past the luxurious large seats in the first class section of the plane to take my spot in the strictly vertical chairs.  I realize I am very lucky to travel anywhere by airplane, but trying to sleep sitting up is not a very fun experience.

However, last night I got to experience the good life at the front of the plane.  I was assigned to a spacious, comfy chair, which could be shifted to lay flat for sleeping.  When I got on the plane, there was a large pillow and comforter in my seat, along with noise-canceling headphones and a toiletry bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, etc.  I was given a glass of champagne as soon as I set down.  I was so in awe of my good fortune, the flight attendant had to be convinced I was over 21. 

After wiping my hands with a warm towel, I was given a small bowl of warm almonds and cashews.  This was soon followed by an appetizer of duck slices with cous cous and bread.  Next, I was given a salad with yellow pepper slices and crumbled blue cheese.  This was followed by a large bowl of pasta with eggplant and cherry tomatoes.  Finally I got to pick a dessert – vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping and whipped cream.  I am amazed airplane providers can serve such gourmet meals so high in the sky.

The only down side of the delicious dinner was it took so long to eat all the courses, I ended up sleeping only three hours.  I got off the plane at 8:30 (12:30 am Minnesota time, I believe).  I blindly bought a train ticket to get to Leuven from an automated machine, without realizing there were people behind a counter to sell tickets as well.  I managed to find the right train, but when the train employee came to check tickets, he told me I had bought the wrong one.  It ended up costing the same amount of money, so I was fine.  Even though the employee spoke English and was nice about my mistake, this was enough to get me teary-eyed, which I blame on sleep deprivation. 

The hostel I am meeting Bethany at had a map and good direction so I only had to wander a couple minutes before finding my bearings and getting on my way.  I’m now sitting in the lobby waiting for Bethany and friends to come back from a meeting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On to Belgium

I’m sitting in the JFK airport waiting for a flight to Brussels, Belgium.  I’m running four more track races before my season is done (and I get to take a break!).  My plan is to race a 1500m in Kortirjk, a 3000m SC in Gent, and a 1500m in Ninove.  I will then travel to Dublin, Ireland to race a mile on the 25th of July.

I’m nervous.  I ran a couple work-outs in the past week, and I have not been feeling very good.  I can’t tell if my body is not yet used to run in the hotness and high humidity Minnesota experienced last week, or if I am past my peak.  Either way, I hope I can give good efforts for these last races of the season.

I am also anxious because I am traveling alone.  I shouldn’t be as nervous as I am; I had to travel on my own to get to Addis Ababa Ethiopia, where I lived for a couple months.  Most people in Addis Ababa did not speak English, and I did not speak any Ethiopian languages.  But it is still long and lonely.

Ideally on this trip I will be able to set some new PR’s.  Even if that doesn’t happen, this will be good practice for extending my season past the end of June and traveling around Europe.  However I do this year, I hope it will make me more prepared for next year.

Thankfully, I have plans to meet up with fellow steeplechaser Bethany Nickless and some of her buddies.  We were roommates on the United States cross country team trip to Edinburgh, and she is staying in a room with four other women in Leuven.  I was happy to hear they have room for one more person.  I am relieved because I thought I would have to wondering around on my own.  I joined CoachSurfing before I found out about the extra bed space.  Although I got some very nice offers, I’m excited to be with someone I know and have people to run with.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Olympic Trials re: Humter S. Thompson

My mom sent me an awesome link to a parody of the Olympic Trials in Hunter S. Thompson form. The blog made me laugh, except for the mimicking of Thompson's sexism.  I have always said Nike picked Galen Rupp as their new Steve Prefontaine sponsor child, and it seems like they would go to no end to make sure he succeeds.  Check out the blog.

Olympic Trials!!!

For anyone who has been long awaiting my thoughts on racing at historic Hayward Field, running two steeples in 5 days, and attending my first fashion show, no more need to hold your breath.  If you think that sounds pretentious, I am completely kidding, because the main people who read my blog are my parents. 

I had such a fun experience competing at the Olympic Trials this past week.  I missed out on the ’08 trials in the steeplechase by a couple spots, so I was very happy to get to race this time around.  Especially since the field in the steeple is so much deeper.  In ’08 the last athlete in had a time of 10:10; this year the last athlete in had a time of 9:58.

In the first race, I ran a half a second PR of 9:51 to time qualify for the finals of the women’s steeple.  I was pleased with my effort because I was able to keep my cool running in a large pack, something I do not have a lot of experience with in the steeple.  I was disappointed with my performance in the final.  My goal this year was to be in the top 8, and I finished 12th in 9:56.  I was only able to stay with the lead pack of women for 2 or 3 laps.  My goal next year is to be in that top group of athletes. 

I stayed in a house for the week with Heather Kampf, her husband Ben, our coach Dennis, and elite master’s runner and board member, Paul Gionobile.  We spent the week playing hearts and golf, and watching Dennis eat cheez-its for every meal.  Our official mascot of the week was a squiver (squirrel beaver) - someone had drawn a picture of one and framed in on the wall of the house.
On Friday evening, after my final race, I went out to a wonderful dinner with all my relative who were kinds enough to come support me: my mom and dad, cousin Cole, his parents Tadd and Julie, and my aunt Eileen and uncle Gene. 
After dinner, I attended my first fashion show with my mom and two aunts.  The show was put on by Oieselle to highlight their fall line of clothes and celebrate the trials.  The event was so fun – lots of runners, drinks, food, and MC Hammer was the DJ!  The new clothes were awesome – I can’t wait to get my hands on some.  Fellow Minnesota Erin Ward got to show off a sports bra and spandex shorts.  I was happy to find fellow young tracksters Caitlin Gregg and Whitney Liehr.  We had a blast dancing and taking pictures in the photo booth.

Since trials, I’ve been doing a little bit of running around.  I spent a couple days in Portland after the Trials exploring with marathoner, Ariella Deprenger Gottfried.  We got to visit the Nike Employee Store, run in Forrest Park, and walk around downtown.

Once I got home, I hopped in a car with Heather Kampf, Elizabeth Yetzer and her boyfriend Dan, and Chris Rombough and his girtlfirend Melissa, to drive 13 hours to Cleveland for our college friend, Katelyn’s wedding. 

I am now heading home and trying to decide whether or not to buy a ticket to Belgium for a few more track races before the season is over.  I am hesitate because I don’t have anyone to travel with, since most of my teammates finished their track seasons by now, and I don’t have an agent yet, so I don’t have a group to travel with.  I am excited to try out the European experience!