It was a strange sensation to feel like I was on top of the world as I lay collapsed on cold concrete. For about the first thirty seconds after my race this past weekend, I lay on my back just past the finish line, feeling my chest rise and fall, tasting air that seemed new. Everything seemed new.
Every time a runner chooses to join a new program or work with a new coach or move to a different location, or in my case, all three, there will be doubts about the fit of the new situation. Maybe the new coaching style won't mesh with the runner's personality. Perhaps the new area won't be conducive for the type of training that the runner is suited for. Maybe, just maybe, the runner will never beat their previous best times again. I'd be lying if I said similar thoughts hadn't crossed my mind as I threw everything I owned into the back of my car and turned east to drive across the country to ZAP. I think I felt this way mostly because in accepting a position at ZAP I was leaving a coach that had transformed me from an above average Division II runner in 2010, into the fastest collegian over 10 Kilometers of any collegiate woman in 2011. Under his coaching I'd shaved impressive amounts off of my personal records in every event and, I have to admit, I most likely would not be running professionally if it weren't for his help during my last year of college.
As I was handed my new ZAP uniform I hoped I'd made the right decision. As of yesterday, I know I did. Yes, I realize that I've been at ZAP for almost 8 months now, and it's not that I haven't had good races within that time; I certainly have, but they've been ambiguous distances that I can't compare side-by-side with my performances from last year.
October- USA 10 mile championships. 5th place, 55:01. I'd never raced a 10 mile race before and had nothing to compare it to. I only knew it went well because; a) It took me less than an hour to finish. b) I didn't drop out. c) I didn't pee my racing shorts.
January- NYC Midnight Run. 4 miles. 2nd place. I'd never raced four miles before either so although the fireworks were spectacular, the race itself meant little to me in terms of my improvement since joining ZAP.
February- Ireland was an amazing trip with a 3k race during which I broke my 3k track pr, but that pr was destined to crumble anyway since it was set during a race in which I lapped the entire field on a crappy track while suffering from an emotion-induced headache that I'd acquired about three hours prior to the race while sitting in a theatre, watching "Soul Surfer" and blubbering shamelessly into a bucket of popcorn.
Yesterday, for the first time in these 8 months, I can say with absolute certainty that I am the fastest I've ever been. I know this because last year at a competitive track meet in perfect weather I raced a 5k and ran 15:57 with absolutely nothing left to give once I crossed the finish line. Yesterday I ran 15:49 on a road course with a hill and a little bit of wind. Afterwards, while Pete and I were cooling down I told him simply, "I trust you". I think he was a bit offended as he joked back that it took me long enough, but if he reads this, I think he'll understand what I meant.
As I lay there on the ground, arms outstretched, palms turned toward heaven, I watched a single blossom flutter and float in a wild flamenco across a bold blue sky and thought to myself that there is so much hope in the world, so much promise of good things to come. I breathed a prayer of thanks, not just for the success of the day but for the day itself, for the gift of opportunity, for a strong set of legs beneath me and for the wonderful blessing of being able to do what I love for a living. I belong at Zap and I believe that I will continue to have many more days like yesterday.