Saturday, May 24, 2014

Surrounded by Success and Failing: Shanghai Diamond League Meet

Going into Shanghai:

                I was really ecstatic about getting into the Shanghai Diamond League meet earlier this year.  What an opportunity to race against some of the best steeple women while getting to see Asia for the first time!  I knew it would be a tough meet to perform well with travel being so long and the time change being so drastic.  I have a hard time racing a three days after getting to Europe, and that’s only a 7 hour difference.  But since it is a non-world championship year, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to practice running well under difficult circumstances.

                As the meet approached, I was not as enthused.  Everything has been a bit off for me since moving to Seattle.  I love the training, the coaching, and the team, but my body has not clicked.  My hips ache almost every time I run, which makes it hard to enjoy running on a daily basis, even if I’m in good company.  My workouts have not been going well, and I knew it would be difficult to be on my ‘A’ game at Shanghai. 

At Shanghai: 

                I left Seattle at noon on Wednesday, and took a direct 12 hour flight into Shanghai.  I landed on Thursday at 7:00 their time.  I love Diamond League meets because I do not have to be stressed out about any logistics once I land.  Once I got through customs, I was led by meet workers to customs.  Once I passed through customs, I was led by other meet workers to a car.  From the car, I was driven through the city to the hotel, which is attached to the stadium.  The driver showed me where to check in with more meet workers who prepared me for check in with the hotel.  I was discombobulated with the huge time change, but managed to get to my room, run on a treadmill with a Chinese soap opera playing on my personal tv, eat a mixed Asian/Western dinner, and get a massage.
                                                                                             Stadium and hotel

                The next day I ran through the neighborhood by the stadium.  I had a difficult time comprehending the amount of smog in the air.  I couldn’t really tell the difference between clouds and smog; the sky looked like a puffy gray blanket.  When I breathed in, it was usually a mixture of air pollution, car exhaust, and cigarette smoke.  There were high rises and swarms of people everywhere. 
                                               High rises in the neighborhood around the stadium

                Later in the day I decided to go exploring.  I took the subway to downtown Shanghai.  The subway was clean, air-conditioned, and easy to use (especially since all the signs were translated into English).  In the downtown area, I explored People’s Park, a quiet, relaxing green space, and People’s Square, a small concrete area with statues celebrating the common worker.  I went to a contemporary art museum, and looked around a couple department stores. 
                                                                       People's Park
View from People's Square.  I thought the giant George Clooney posture was an interesting sight next to the sculptures celebrating Communist values.
                                                        Artwork from Modern Art Museum
                                                                     Artwork from Modern Art Museum

                The rest of the weekend involved a lot of down time at the hotel, interrupted by eating with the other athletes.  The meet did a good job of trying to provide food everyone would enjoy, a difficult task when feeding people from around the world.  Breakfast involved pastries, congee, omelets, and a buffet of hot food ranging from sausages (which looked like little white hot dogs) to pancakes.  Lunch and dinner always involved a salad bar, lots of fresh fruit, a pasta bar, and a buffet of Chinese food and a take on Western food.  I usually stuck with fried rice, steamed asparagus, salad, and some type of Chinese-prepared protein. 

                The race was a huge disappointment.  I did not feel great warming up, and I performed even worse.   Granted, the conditions were not optimal.  We raced at 8:45 pm, long after I started getting sleep in the evenings.  Meet officials rounded us up half an hour early, but didn’t give us any room to continue warming up, or any hurdles to use once inside the holding room in the stadium.  A Chinese runner who entered the race with a 10:12 PR tried to get in the mix of the African pack, and ended up getting in my way a couple times over a water jump and barriers.  But, even with these less-than-ideal circumstances, I was very embarrassed by the time I ran.

Returning home:

                I’m trying to get a few things figured out with my body and mind, and I’m trying to decide if I will race at Pre.  I’ve been accepted into the field, but I don’t want to run if I’m going to be too far off my PR. 

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