[ Photo credit: Joseph Hale @jkh_photo ]
By Jenna Hinkle
Since I got a late start to my cross country season, I decided not to take a long break after USATF National Club Cross Country Championships. Instead, I took a short two days off before fully throwing myself into training for the indoor track season. My winter training was mentally one of the hardest training cycles I have had to date. I was used to taking the holiday season to relax and decompress from running. Instead, this year I found myself setting out on a solo 16 mile long run tempo the day of Christmas Eve. However, I was able to stay true to my training throughout December and January with the singular goal in mind of qualifying for the USATF Indoor Championships.
I kicked off my indoor season at the UW Opener in Seattle, Washington with the 3000m. Being the first indoor race of my career, I was excited both to test my fitness and find out what all the indoor hype was about. Let me tell you, the "indoor cough" is a real thing. I opened up with a 9 second PR, bringing my time down from a 9:24 to 9:15, and securing my spot in the 2 mile at the USATF Indoor Championships. This gave me the flexibility to hop in to other events, thus my next race I signed up for a 5k. I PR'd by just over half a second, a good indicator for my overall fitness this early in the year.
Before heading to the USATF Indoor Championships I got to stop by the HOKA ONE ONE headquarters and receive a "care package" full of HOKA gear, including a new uniform for the meet. I cannot thank HOKA enough for all the support they provide us, as I left their headquarters feeling even more excited for the national championships! I then began a smooth travel day to New York, ending with my arrival at the hotel in Staten Island. The next morning, I woke up and decided to make my way into the city for my shake out run. I caught the Staten Island Ferry, which passes closely by the Statue of Liberty, before jumping on the subway to Central Park. I spent the next 40 minutes running through Central Park while taking in all the sights it had to offer. One the things I enjoy the most about being a runner is the opportunity the sport has given me to travel and explore new places. Running through Central Park, I reflected about how grateful I was to both the Aggies Running Club and HOKA ONE ONE for the opportunity to go on this trip and pursue my passion.
Race day seemed to come quickly as I was soon catching an Uber to the Ocean Breeze Athletic facility. While my trip to New York was a solo one, I did not feel alone, as I received so much support from my HOKA Aggie teammates back home. I was also introduced to other runners affiliated with HOKA, reminding me of the community that comes with running. I took this support into the race as I found myself positioned right where I wanted to be in the lead pack. I passed through the mile in the PR pace of 4:56, feeling smooth and confident. Unfortunately, on the back stretch of my next lap my heel was clipped and I found myself sprawled out on the track. Having never fallen during a race before my initial reaction was shock, followed by a wave of disappointment as the lead pack had already opened up a large gap. However, determined not to drop out I picked myself up and finished the race.
While my race did not go as planned, the USATF Indoor Championships were still a great learning experience for me. I learned what it feels like to race on a big stage, and being surrounded by the best runners in the country reignited my passion to compete at the highest level. It is safe to say my experience this past weekend has sent me into the outdoor season with a heightened focus and lofty goals. Time to fly!