Hello New Hampshire!
Over this past weekend I had my first collegiate race, a 5k at the Memphis Twilight Classic in Memphis, Tennessee. I wanted to take this opportunity to recap and describe my first race as a member of Alabama Cross Country!
Prior to race day, we received our uniforms and travel kits, lots of grey and red sweats, and Nike bags to carry them in. We departed for Memphis Saturday morning, which is about a four hour ride from Tuscaloosa. We had a nice, comfy coach bus equipped with wifi and television so that we could watch college football all the way to the meet. We also all received packages of food with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, cliff bars, homemade trail mix, and power bars. Those travel bags were really useful for pre-race fueling, especially because I forgot my own peanut butter and jelly in the dorm.
We arrived at the hotel around two o’clock, and we weren’t racing until 9:30pm, which is by far the latest race I have ever participated in. Killing time over the next few hours included a lot of Netflix, a call home to my parents, and a call to Coach Cox for a little pre-race pump-up. On Friday night, I ordered two orders of take-out pasta from a Dominos near the dorm. That was my dinner about five hours before the gun (highly recommend take-out pasta. So easy). Before I knew it, the time had come to suit up, and with the sun already set, we made our way to the rec fields.
The course was a 5k around about six different soccer fields which basically was comprised of two small loops and a larger that led into a baseball stadium. The “hill” on the course was similar to the hill at the start of Mines Falls, simply a separation between the two soccer fields. I don’t think I’m going to be experiencing anything quite like Derryfield or Thetford down here. We warmed up as a team starting about an hour prior to our race, and got to the start with plenty of time for strides and drills. Throughout our warmup, people were constantly coming up to us asking to take photos with the team. As the upperclassmen explained it, that happens a lot because of the popularity of Alabama in the South. We politely declined because we aren’t allowed to take photos before a race – have to keep the distractions to a minimum. I was definitely nervous prior to the start, there’s never a race where I’m not nervous. However, I was also surprisingly calm. I know how to race a 5k, it’s something we all do over and over again during cross season. I think understanding that the meet was simply an opener, an opportunity to adjust to longer racing again, helped me keep steady. There was also a professional runner in the race, so it was definitely a no-pressure situation.
A few moments prior to the race we gathered for our circle. Every team has their own traditions when it comes to preparing for a race. Here’s a little known fact about Coe-Brown’s team over the past four years: if we were ever seen in a circle before a race, chances are one of the Scannell sisters was leading us in a motivational cuss-off to get us amped before we hit the line. However, down here in Alabama, I was a part of my first prayer circle; a little different from the usual back home.
The race went quickly, and it went really well. I was able to be surrounded by teammates the entire time. The hardest part of the course was probably the last 1200 meters as you could see the stadium the finish was in, but I wasn’t able to see the finish itself. Running at night was really nice because it had cooled off significantly from the day. Having the opportunity to work with other freshman and upperclassmen was wicked cool and I was able to keep an eye on a teammate the entire time and work off her. It was a shock to the body to race a 5k again, but I think that’s pretty common at the beginning of the season. We ended up winning the race as a team, and I came in 16th overall, fifth for the team, in a time of 18:05, by far the fastest I’ve run in the early season. Throughout the entire race, I could hear people yelling, “ROLL TIDE!” and “ALABAMA!” even if they weren’t from our team. It was a really cool experience – it’s almost as if you become a celebrity down here just by wearing the “A.”
By the time our race was over and we had cooled down, it was well past 10:30pm. Almost all the other girls on the team had family there which is a huge benefit of going to school somewhere closer to your hometown. It was incredibly odd to finish a race and not immediately get to see my parents and other family members, or some of my friends. That is truly something I miss.
Another funny moment concerned the spikes I was wearing during the meet. Because none of the actual cross spikes fit my feet, I ended up wearing a pair of track spikes. The Nike Zoom Victory Elite 3’s are the shoes I was wearing, in white. While I am no shoe connoisseur, my teammate told me these shoes have yet to hit the commercial market in this color. I actually had people coming up to me at the meet, asking how I got my hands on the shoes. I guess that’s the benefit of going to such a big school!
We headed back to the hotel after the guy’s team finished cooling down, and I immediately fell into bed – relieved to be able to sleep. Racing in my first collegiate race was an incredible experience and one I am so thankful for. It is really cool to be a part of a team that, similar to the team I was on at home, is working really hard to accomplish something. My main goal for this season is to be consistently part of the top five on the team. This weekend was an awesome stepping stone towards achieving that goal, and I believe that it was a great start to my college career. I think the biggest thing that helped me prepare is knowing that no matter what happened, I always have those at home that are going to support me no matter what. This weekend was a very big test when it came to trusting my instincts, trusting myself to stay hungry and keeping moving up throughout the entirety of the race.
Until next time!