This is Part 2 of 2. Did you miss the backstory in Part 1? Read it here.

Imagine my dismay when on the very first day of 2011, I found myself unable to run. Three days turned into two weeks, which turned into two months. I kept my head on straight for most of it, never giving up on my season, but eventually it wore me down. Here I was again, living the same story I promised myself I wouldn’t repeat, and here I was faced with writing about it all again. Most days, I just couldn’t do it.


I was reduced to this for a while.

Around the eighth week of injury without improvement, I hit the emotional reset button with the help of energy worker Bob Greczanik. It turned me into an amoeba for a week (but an enlightened amoeba). Seriously, turning on the light switch took major effort. Then I pulled myself together, drove my VW Campervan to Arizona, camped out at Dr. John Ball’s office and spent four weeks reconstructing the soft tissue of my foot through manual torture. After 12 weeks off, I was finally back running on April 2.

April F-ING 2!!! Nationals was approaching fast: June 24th. It doesn’t take a math whiz to realize that left me with one day short of 12 weeks to get ready to defend my title, or more realistically, to get around 12.5 laps of the track without embarrassing myself. Out of those 12 weeks, I’d need two to get used to running again, two more to get my mileage up, and one week at the end for a mini-taper. That left a total of seven weeks for “training.” Even IF I didn’t have a single setback or hiccup, things were looking pretty bleak.

I met with Coach Rowls to discuss my options, and talk to him about creating an alternative goal in the fall to aim towards. It was a strained meeting with conflict and me eventually blubbering all over myself. I vented frustration in how far my reality was from where I imagined I’d be. I grieved the loss of that invincibility I felt after last year’s USA Championship race, when anything seemed possible. I had been clinging to my best laid plans, and I finally had to let them go. Damn. In the end, Mark convinced me there was value in playing the best game I could with the hand I was dealt.

tough draw

Defending Champ might freak one girl out…That’s worth about a pair of sixes.

My cards were lookin pretty weak.  I was totally out of shape without enough time to do squat.  But after we talked, I decided to make a fun challenge out of it: I decided to try to play these sucky cards better than anyone else in the nation could play these sucky cards. It would take strategy and logic and passion and a good amount of bluffing. But in the end, no matter what, I’d have an answer to this question:

How good can I get in 12 short weeks?

This challenge would be an intense experiment requiring all 16 years of experience in mental and physical training techniques.  If I were a musician, I would be throwing together a compilation mix of my greatest hits so far.  I decided I wouldn’t waste a single moment doubting or feeding negative thoughts. I was going to make myself believe that anything was possible. I was going to surround myself with positive people, imagine the best outcomes, and bathe myself in awesomeness.

joy photo

You become what you repeatedly think!

Probably because of that, it turned out I made it without a single hiccup, and made it through (almost) every single day with a feeling of peace. The work I was doing mentally was having an incredible effect on how I approached the challenges in front of me, and fitness milestones were flying by. By the time the race came, I hadn’t run a 5k on the track in almost 11 months, but I was relaxed and accepting of my destiny.  The other girls were going to compete how they were going to compete.  All I could do was run my race the best way I knew how, given the circumstances, and enjoy the hell out of it.

So how did it turn out?

the end of the effort

Courtesy of The Long Run Picture Company

Well, the simple story you can find in the results is that I was 8th place in the USA in 15:31. Right smack in the middle of the pack. The slightly more complex story can be seen in the race footage, where I am relatively smooth for 10 laps before the fast pace rips into my legs and lungs beyond my fitness level, leaving me fighting for breath as the opportunity to make the World Team pulls away. But the real story is this:

As my dad would say, I bluffed my way through that shitty hand like a cowboy in a saloon (with a six shooter pointing at him under the table).

That 12 weeks was milked for all that it was worth by developing mental skills that I’ll have forever. I fought for every place, and every second, and walked off the track with an increased respect for the event and my competitors.  Sure, I’d love to have finished better, but I’d also love to have a vacation home in Monaco.  You work with what you’ve got: if you set your goals with a wider lens on your life, you don’t have to win the race to experience deep satisfaction.


I’m kicking off season two of “ALF Overseas” folks!  I’ll be training, racing, imbibing, and adventuring all over Europe, so if you have enjoyed my blog but don’t want to check back all the time, go to the top right corner and sign up for email notifications.  It’ll give you a heads up when there is something new (you can always unsubscribe.  I won’t get my feelings hurt, I promise).