Immediately after deciding to cancel the Michigan trip, Tim signed me up for another mile, The Warner Hotel West Chester Mile, happening in two weeks. The field looked incredibly stacked, composed of several girls running under 4:05 for 1500m and the “slowest” running a 4:16, a full 4 seconds faster than my most recent personal best. I tried to act confident, but deep down, I felt slightly nervous and dreadful. Catching myself, I actively changed my attitude about the racing opportunity, switching that dread into excitement at the opportunity to race such a fast field. I told myself that if I was going to pursue this post collegiate running career, I would need to face these type of challenges head on rather than let dread and pity myself.
On the same day Tim and I decided to enter the West Chester race, I got a text from Brad Hunt, asking me to make the trip up to Princeton University, where he now coached, to help run his girls only cross country camp. Without hesitation, I told him I would and within the next half hour we hammered out the final details, made travel plans, and talked about general itinerary for the camp. A few days later, I found myself on a plane, headed from Charleston to Chicago then Newark where I took my very first train ride ever to Princeton University. Upon stepping onto campus and meeting with the 67 campers, I could already tell the next 5 days were going to be awesome. It was a great opportunity to connect with younger runners just starting the sport and hopefully make a positive impact on their running journeys. I got to answer their questions about the sport and Division I running that I wish I could have asked when I was their age. For those 5 days, we ran, ate, and grew together. Even the staff composed of Brad Hunt, Donnie Cowart, Samantha Jones, Cleo Boyd, Chelsea Ley, Rebekah Stowe, Liz Lansing, and trainer Jodi Schneider was able to bond over the duration of the camp. Making sure 70 kids stay safe, healthy, and happy is a great bonding tool.
When camp was over, I jumped on a train to get back to the airport to fly home. During this train ride from Princeton to Newark, I stumbled onto two couples discussing the many delays and cancellations they had experienced at Newark Airport. They told me how it had converted them to taking long train rides ranging from 18 hours to 2 days rather than face the tremendous chaos of airports. Leaving the train, I remember ironically thinking to myself “I could never ride a damn train for that long.” Upon arriving to my gate at the Newark airport, I was informed my flight out of Newark had been cancelled. After standing in line for over 3 hours trying to rebook my plane, I would not be able to catch a flight home for 2 more days. Calling my dad, he told me the only option I had was to catch the Amtrak leaving early the next morning from the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, a 90 minute Uber ride from Newark for those who are wondering because there were no more trains leaving Newark for Philadelphia. The Amtrak would take 13 hours to get to Charleston, but it seemed to be a better option than waiting for the next available flights days from now.
Boarding the train, I spent the next 13 hours, constantly being jostled by the train on the tracks and watching as the train slowly emptied until I was the solo traveler left. What made things worse is that I am not the type of person who can sit still for long durations of time. So, I ended up pacing back and forth most of the train ride. Arriving back in Charleston late that night, I didn’t have a chance to relax but immediately went into apartment searching hyperdrive. Despite my horrible luck with the train, I was fortunate enough to somehow find some wonderful roommates in a great part of town for a reasonable price. Without hesitation, I signed a lease and moved my stuff into the house. However, before I could completely settle in, I already had to jump on another plane back to Newark to catch a train to West Chester, Pennsylvania.
This time, I actually made it to the meet. There, I was able to reconnect with old running friends like Jesse Garn, Megan Moye, and Craig Engels. They introduced me to other runners like Travis Mahoney, Kenyetta Iyevbele, and Kyle Merber. Socializing before the race threw me off a bit. Back in college, it mostly seemed that at meets, teams would mostly socialize with their own team, not their competition. Now here I was, standing with my competition, having dinner.
The next day passed by in a blur and soon enough it was the race time. After 3 months of being told no, of having my plans wrecked to pieces, here I was ready to toe the line and see what could happen. Before I knew it, BANG, and we were off. Launching forward, I tried to get out hard but set myself up in good position. I knew that I would probably be towards the back and see if I could pass anyone. First lap passed and I felt pretty good. So I decided to move up. The second and third laps were the same. Felt calm and relaxed so decided if instead of just trying to beat one person, maybe I could pass two, three, and maybe even four? As the bell lap rang, I told remember telling myself, “if we are going to go through all this trouble and financial expenses, let’s go and get it.” Building into my kick, I started to pass a few more girls, and with 200 meters left, I bunkered down, passing one last girl and tried my best to close the gap on two girls, Megan Moye and Hannah Greene who I had frequently raced back at Wake.
Unfortunately, I ran out of real estate but I did match the pb I had set earlier that year. Even though I didn't break my pb, I was happy with the effort I put forward. If I could match my pb during a rust buster, I was only left with excitement for racing to come. The rest of the night was filled with fun between fields, talking and celebrating the approaching end of the summer track session. Heading home to Charleston, I rode the train to the Newark airport again, and again, I was told my flight home had been canceled. Almost in tears, I feared that it might be round two on the 13 hour train. Fortunately, I was able to catch a flight to Chicago where I would spend the night with a friend/teammate of mine, Mimi Smith. The next day, I was able to get back home.
However, the summer did not stop there. As I was traveling home from West Chester, Tim and I talked about the next race, the Ed Murphy Mile, in Memphis, Tennessee. During our research, we found out that the top five runners would receive a chunk of prize money ranging from $1500 to $400 with bonus prizes for breaking certain time standards. Once I got home, flights were booked and I was set to fly out in the next two weeks.... Part 3 to come