All the buses were tricked out

All the athlete buses were tricked out

This is part one of a two-part analysis of Worlds before I close the book on it and start focusing on New York Marathon!  Feel free to post questions or comments in the comments section and I’ll do my best to reply.

Fake World

When I arrived in Daegu, South Korea, as far as I was concerned, time stopped and the rest of the world didn’t exist.  Outside of my husband and immediate family, everyone else I knew was frozen in time.  If a bill was due, it would be late, late fees and credit score be damned. “The Athlete Village” was my home, my six roommates were my homies, and the rest of the team and staff was my support crew as if they’d been there all along.

This is completely delusional of course.

first ones in the village

First ones in the village. It would come alive in a couple days.

The village is just an apartment complex temporarily gated off, waiting to be sold off to Koreans as soon as we move out.  The dining hall will turn into a parking garage.  The administrative buildings and meeting rooms will turn into a school.  The “Champions Plaza” and its daily cultural performances will be replaced by dog walkers and loitering teens, and the cement benches where athletes met their coaches to discuss race strategies will be used as props for skaters.

Zoila Gomez, Bridget Franek and I running the river path from the village.

Zoila Gomez, Bridget Franek and I running the river path from the village.

As for my housemates, they are from all over the country, and many of us compete against one another for limited contracts and opportunities, none of which incentivize working together towards a common goal.  But in our pseudo world of Daegu, we all got along great and learned a lot about each other.  I’d even say some good friendships were forged.  But in the real world, roommates Morgan Uceny, Jenn Rhines and Amy Hastings will go back to the mountains of Mammoth.  Alice Schmidt will return to watering her plant in San Diego. Shalane Flanagan will ramp back up in Portland. And Bridget and I? Back to Track Town. We talked about reunions, but when push comes to shove, we’ll probably just go back to aiming the cross hairs right between the eyes.

Fake World paid off big time though.  Fake World protected me from naysayers and negative energy, (you may be shocked to know that some people devote copious amounts of time publicly tearing down professional runners and putting weird comments on their facebooks).  Fake World gave me time to imagine myself giving my best performance in an environment that I luckily slipped into last minute.  And while I was hanging out there, something unexpected happened.  I imagined myself winning a medal.

Since I went pro in 2003, I always wanted to believe I could medal on the world stage, but whenever I tried to picture it, it was too fuzzy to focus on…too slippery to hold onto.  The power of belief is an incredible tool, and I do exercises all the time to create beliefs about myself that will help me achieve a goal, (check out the new project I’m about to release on the subject) but my mind won’t let me just believe any old thing just because I want to. While some beliefs come fairly quickly with a little disciplined practice, certain beliefs are hidden behind iron-gated doors with seven padlocks and a row of archers standing guard.  A medal has always been one of those things and I’ve been tracking down the keys one at a time over the years.

Cameraderie at London

The cameraderie at London made a big difference

But something changed after London.  I don’t know if it was age or experience or euphoria, but I got a little glimpse behind the doors.  Daegu would be hot.  The world’s best would be doubling 10k/5k and the 5k was the second event of the two.  The races would likely be tactical.  The athletes with the fastest times don’t always win races like that.  You can predict the result of a Diamond League race based on season bests almost to the T.  But Championships are different. There is a difference between the “World’s Fastest” and the “World’s Best.” A lot of the “World’s Fastest” are dependent on rabbits to make the race happen for them. Suddenly in a championship race, there are no rabbits and it all comes down to the day and a bunch of factors out of your control. Being the “World’s Best” requires handling anything thrown at you, using your instincts well, having good luck, and managing the pressure and stress of the unknown.

Was I ever going to beat Vivian Cheruiyot?  Probably not.  But did I dream about it?  Yes.  Did I imagine scenarios where I won?  Yes, about 35 of them, as well as scenarios for silver, bronze, a close 4th, etc. I imagined myself on the back of the lead pack of Africans with two laps to go, but in Fake World I was able to match the move and kick it home and pick off as many people as reality allowed on the day.  However I also had a back up plan just in case I wasn’t firing at 100% on the day, or in case the race tactics were crazy fast, just to make sure that I didn’t have a stinker in the worst case scenario (like I did in Helsinki in 2005).  Some people may think of this as giving yourself a way out, but its exactly the opposite.  It helps me identify what I can and can’t control so I can use logic rather than emotion during the race.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Final thoughts on Worlds including “how not to tank a race” and putting the result in perspective.  Please comment below with questions, experiences, etc.  I love reading your thoughts.