Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rough Start to European Trip

My European trip has not gone as well as I had hoped, thus far, for two big reasons:

1.       Getting my Russian visa

2.       My first race at Huesden


                I finished 4th at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.  Nicole Bush, who won, has the IAAF World ‘A’ standard, so she automatically will get to compete at worlds.  Ashley Higginson has the IAFF World ‘B’ standard, so as the first ‘B’ standard in the top three, she automatically gets to go.  However, Shalaya Kipp also has the ‘B’ standard, so she does not automatically get to go.  If either Shalaya or Ashley hit the ‘A’ standard both of them get to go.  However, if neither of them hit the ‘A’ standard by July 20th, I would get to go, since I am the next in line with an ‘A’ standard. 

                Since I have a chance of going, I went through processing at the Championships.  I had done as much preparation as USATF had asked me to do, by filling out information on-line and bringing pictures of myself.  I was told that in order to get my Russian visa, I would have to go to a Russian embassy in the United States, give money to an express courier to do it, or have USATF do it, which they told me, would be the fastest option.  I was told I would get my passport back on July 1st, or as close to then as possible.  I was disappointed because I was supposed to run a 3k in Cork, Ireland on July 2nd and would have to cancel that race in order to get my passport, but I agreed to give USATF my passport.  As I went through processing, they looked my name up to see if I a ‘letter of invitation from Russia,’ but I did not.  I told them I didn’t know how I was supposed to have gotten one, but I didn’t get an answer. 

                A couple days after the championship, I got an e-mail from USATF saying I wouldn’t get my passport until between July 12th and 15th.  The e-mail said they had expected this delay for people who hadn’t gotten their letters of invitation.  Again, I was frustrated because I had to cancel more races and my hostel reservations.  My questions were, “if USATF knew there was going to be an extra delay, why didn’t they tell me?” and “How was I supposed to get a letter of invitation; I never got any information on it?” But I did not get a response. 

                Long story short, I was able to get my passport earlier than expected, on July 9th, and I flew to Brussels the next day.  When I was talking to an agent yesterday at the track, I learned: 1) many athletes had just flown over to Europe and were getting their visas from the Russian embassies here, and 2) USATF sent out information on how to get letters of invitations only to agents, who were told to distribute them to athletes.  Sooooooo, I not only was not given all my options about how to get a visa, I was not given any information on how to get a letter of invitation because I don’t have an agent, even though USATF had all the athletes’ e-mail addresses, and I was coming into my event with the fastest time run so far this season.  Hopefully I will have an agent by next track season, but I don’t think athletes who don’t have agents shouldn’t be left out of vital information.


                I was excited to race the 1500m at Huesden because I hadn’t gotten a chance to race the event so far this year, and I think I am capable of a PR.  Also, Huesden brings in a deep and talented pool of athletes, so I knew I would have some people to chase. 

The day started off a little messy. Many of the American athletes had gotten a bus to bring them from Lueven to Huesden, and all my Athletes and Action friends were on the bus, but I did not get a response back from the bus organizer about getting a ride.  David Jankowski, an American runner who did not race, had figured out the train schedule to get to the race, so I followed him to the station.  We got on the first train and rode about 45 minutes, but found out that although this train usually stops at the place we needed to transfer, it did not on that particular train.  We got redirected on how to get to Huesden, and we had to backtrack a bit, but we made it.  I quickly had to change into my uniform before warming up.  Happily, I was in the same race as my American roommate, Elizabeth Yetzer and University of Illinois runner, Katie Porath, so we got to explore the city together on our warm-up.

Once it was time to race, we got on the track, lined up, and were off.  I was the second person to the inside.  The first woman did not get out particularly well, and I was stuck close to the back of the pack in the first 100m.  Someone went to the outside of the pack, and a small space opened out in front of me.  I started to move into it, but another woman cut me off.  I should have slammed on the brakes harder, but she should have been disqualified for cutting me off.  I tripped on her spikes and fell flat on my face.  We were just past the 100m mark, so the race was not recalled.  It took me a second to figure out what happened, but I got up and kept going.  I had a fine effort, but never really caught up to the pack, and I don’t ever want to know my time.

I came away from the race with track burn on my knees, a ripped spike, and a couple deep cuts from the woman’s spikes.  I also came away with the lesson that if someone cuts me off, I can’t continue my regular stride, it is better to brake than waste a whole race.  I enjoy only having to race as often as I want to, but I have to make sure all those races count.


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