The Last Eight Months

It’s been awhile since my last blog post (I keep telling Griffin I’ve been having writer’s block), but I’m finally back on the blog to talk about my last race and what’s happened the last eight months. 

            In my last post I wrote about some of the lessons I learned in my first year of professional running and how I was excited to use these lessons moving into this year.  In my head, the fall was going to consist of my best workouts ever and lots of happy miles.  While there was still a lot of solid work put in and some wonderful miles with my teammates, I quickly found myself crumbling under the high expectations I was beginning to put on myself after the success I had this last summer.  As soon as things weren’t going perfectly in workouts, I would begin to panic and overthink things. I began to fear going out too fast and the watch became my enemy once again.  I just wanted so badly to have the same feeling I had at worlds all over again and had built up this internal pressure that I had to prove to myself that the medal wasn’t a fluke.

 Fall training in Portland

Fall training in Portland

            One of my coaches, Pascal, could see me struggling with this and had an important conversation with me late in the fall.  He discussed with me that I shouldn’t be using success as a negative thing, but rather just confidence that I belong training and competing at this level.  He reminded me that I was still Courtney, who was going to work hard everyday and give it my all, and that the success of last summer was an accomplishment that would only help me get to where I want to be as an athlete, not make things harder.

            Going into our winter phase of training I was in a much better mental state and things were starting to come together while we were at altitude camp in Woodland Park, CO.  I had some great workouts and really enjoyed training at altitude with my teammates.  I felt ready to go for the U.S Cross Country Champs and really wanted to show the work I had been putting in. 

 Training in Woodland Park, CO

Training in Woodland Park, CO

 Racing the USA Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, FL

Racing the USA Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, FL

            For the first half of the race, I felt relaxed and ready for any move that was made. Somewhere in the next kilometer though, something changed and panic began to set in as I wasn’t able to cover a move.  I saw my goal of winning the race slip away and negative thoughts began to fill my head.  I was happy to be able to keep some composure and finish fourth, but disappointed to fall short of my goals and feel as though I hadn’t raced to my full potential that day, mostly from a mental aspect.  I was quickly filled with joy though, when I realized my teammate Emily had won the race.  Emily has been a wonderful friend and teammate to me and for her to win a national title was incredible.

 Pacing the 5k at the Husky Classic in Seattle, WA

Pacing the 5k at the Husky Classic in Seattle, WA

            When we returned to Portland after altitude and the race, I was determined to make my next training block better than ever.  I had shown signs that things were moving in the right direction while at altitude and I wanted to keep it going.  I began running my highest mileage ever and started to string together several of my best workouts.  I paced the 5k at the Husky Invite and 9:10 for 3k had never felt easier.  I was so excited about how things were going and wanted more than anything for it to stay this way. 

            Over the next several weeks I continued to have some of my best workouts while keeping my mileage the highest it’s ever been.  I soon became obsessed with having the perfect training block because in my head that’s what it was going to take to reach my goals for this year.  It’s funny how our brain alters our memories of previous training blocks before big breakthroughs. The previous two years, which I had considered to be very successful, l had plenty of moments of doubt and workouts where it seemed at the time like everything was falling apart.  But in the end the collective work led to some great results. Despite knowing this, I still became hyper focused on perfection. 

This worked for awhile, but soon led to my nerves getting out of control going into workouts.  I would get so nervous before workouts I would barely speak on the warm-up and I had the mindset of “when am I going to fall off” during each rep.  The watch again became the enemy because as soon as I would realize we weren’t on the correct pace, panic would set in.  I was just so afraid of disappointing everyone if things weren’t perfect. 

Jerry pulled me aside one day because he could see me really struggling mentally.  I told him I’d been so worried I wasn’t doing enough.  He responded with a piece of advice that I try to follow each day now.  He told me that all he expects from me is to show up and be the best Courtney I can be each day.  Some days that means knocking it out of the park and some days it’ll be just barely hanging on.  But as long as I was the best version of myself, it was a step in the right direction. 

This conversation really changed my mindset and had me focusing on taking training day by day, and appreciating every step I make.  It’s helped me to realize I’ve learned so much when it comes to running (and want to keep learning more!) and part of the challenge of the lessons is figuring out what tools to use when.  Just because you’ve learned a lesson, like learning to trust my instincts over looking at my watch, doesn’t mean it isn’t going to take continual practice to get better at using this tool.  Each day is an opportunity to learn new things and figure out what tools to use when. 

 Racing the 1500 at the Bryan Clay Invite in Azusa, CA

Racing the 1500 at the Bryan Clay Invite in Azusa, CA

Since then, my training has been going really well and I’ve been finding a lot more consistency, while also really falling in love with process of running all over again.  I’ve raced twice so far this track season, one 1500 and one steeple.  Both races were good steps in the right direction.  The 1500 is always a challenge for me, as I’m not the speediest, but it was a wonderful opportunity for me to put myself outside of my comfort zone and work on race tactics.  Overall I was really pleased with the decisions I made during the race, just felt like my finishing speed wasn’t quite there yet, but that is something we are working on!

My first steeple of the season was at the Oslo Diamond League last week and it was an interesting first one.  One of the barriers was set at the men’s height (6 in higher) which caused a pileup on the first lap.  I was able to stay on my feet, but fell pretty far off the front pack.  I was a little panicked the next lap (I need to work on staying calm next time) before refocusing and working the rest of the race to pass as many people as I could.  I ended up finishing fourth and scoring my first ever Diamond League points which was definitely a positive.  I know my fitness is better than my result, but I walked away pleased overall and very hungry for my next steeple.

 Training in Mammoth Lakes, CA

Training in Mammoth Lakes, CA

I’m now back at altitude camp in Mammoth Lakes, CA with my teammates until our U.S. Champs which I am very excited about! This year’s competition will be in Des Moines, IA which means I will get to see a lot of family and friends.  I am excited to race again soon, especially back in the Midwest!  Thanks for following!

 

Courtney

 Training in Mammoth Lakes, CA

Training in Mammoth Lakes, CA

Reflecting on my first year as a Pro

I’ve just begun fall training for this next year of running after enjoying a couple weeks off.  My break allowed me to really reflect on this last year and my first full year as a professional runner.   I’m excited to share with you my thoughts on worlds and post-world’s racing as well as lessons I have learned from this crazy year.

 On the medal stand at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium. 

On the medal stand at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium. 

 

           It’s been about a month and a half since my race at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London and I still find myself wondering if it actually happened sometimes and other times become completely overwhelmed with emotion all over again.  My coaches and I felt I was ready for a big breakthrough, but it was still very shocking to make history along with Emma Coburn by becoming the first ever U.S. women to go 1-2 in the steeplechase.  For an awesome interview and recap of the race, check out this article Taylor Dutch wrote for Flotrack: GIVE YOURSELF A CHANCE

 Victory Lap at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London

Victory Lap at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London

 

            After worlds, I ran a flat 3k at Birmingham in which I walked away with a PR, but was overall not super satisfied.  I struggled coming back from worlds that quickly and also made some tactical errors.  It was a wonderful learning opportunity though and I appreciate races where mistakes are made just as much as races that go well.  After Birmingham, I paced the steeple at Berlin.  This was a really awesome opportunity for me to practice leading and pushing the pace as well as help out my teammate Colleen!  I walked away with a lot of confidence that I could potentially run a sub-9:10 race alone and helped several girls PR.  I finished my season with the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City.  This race was definitely a challenge for me as I was really stepping outside my comfort zone.  I was really happy I did it though as it was good for me to be put into unfamiliar territory in order to become an overall better racer.  It was also a lot of fun to finish my season with so many of my friends in the sport.

 

            As I mentioned, this year has been a huge learning year and I want to share with you a some of the things I learned this year that I feel helped me get to where I am today.

20799002_1822265041123022_1645183213254953181_n.jpg

Giving Yourself a Chance

            A little over a year ago I sat on a bright blue track in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, overcome with a sense of emptiness.  I had just finished 11th in the Olympic final, two seconds off my then personal best, yet all I could think was, “what now”.  You train so hard and for so long for moments like this and while I felt like I had done a good job, I felt an overwhelming sense of regret for not being riskier.  I didn’t really give myself a chance that day.  Once the spectacle of the Olympics passed, my husband, Griffin, and I discussed this and we both knew I needed to spend the next coming years learning how to really give myself a chance.  The emptiness feeling had passed and now I was filled with desire and a new fire to really put myself out there.  All year during workouts and races that would again just be “ok”, he would remind me that I had to keep working on giving myself a chance and stop playing it safe too often.   

 

 Griffin and Courtney on the victory lap at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, my sister Lindsey with the photo bomb! 

Griffin and Courtney on the victory lap at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, my sister Lindsey with the photo bomb! 

            My new coaches and teammates quickly picked up on my struggle with this and I have to give a lot of credit to them for helping me to learn how to just shut my brain off and follow. As well as how to trust my instincts about pace rather than looking at my watch.  These two things helped tremendously in my ability to “go for it” at worlds.  From Colleen telling me to just focus on her back during our fast 800’s to having Evan tell me with full confidence that I can run a 61 second 400 if I just trust myself, I feel just so lucky to have teammates and coaches that are so invested in everyone’s success. 

Team

        A few years ago, I was convinced that I had found success because I was able to focus on myself and what I needed.  While it is important to consider your own best interest in many cases, I can now say without a doubt that running is so much more fun and so much more rewarding when you are doing it with a team.  I first learned this while competing with the University of New Mexico where we were able to win a national championship in cross country and this idea was further solidified for me this year with the Bowerman Track Club.  With professional running, the reality is that it is about your career and there is no team title.  But, I can honestly say that with my BTC teammates, we are fully invested in everyone’s careers because we know we truly are better together.  I think this not only helps us be successful, but makes the process so much more enjoyable and rewarding.  Because let’s face it, running is hard! But having friends along the way make the downs bearable and the ups even better.

 BTC teammates after the NYRR 5th Ave. Mile in NYC

BTC teammates after the NYRR 5th Ave. Mile in NYC

Trust

            If I had to pick one word or phrase to describe this year before worlds, I would probably say something like challenging.  Looking back on the number of changes that I made this year, this probably shouldn’t be that surprising because with change and growth comes growing pains.  I always spoke of “trusting the process” in college, but this year really taught me to believe in this idea even more. 

A few times this year I found myself questioning whether I had made the right decision to switch coaches and move to Portland.  Early in fall training, I found myself getting dropped in every workout and I remember talking to my college coach, Coach Butler, and he reminded me that this was going to be part of the transition and that in order to really push the envelope, I needed to put myself outside of my comfort zone which was exactly what I had done.  Looking back on the year, it was almost as if I had become a freshman all over again, which meant a lot of learning and lot of trusting that things were going to work out.  There was lot of ups and downs this year, but every time I found myself questioning things, I would force myself to take a step back and remember that I needed to keep trusting my coaches and the plan. 

This was instrumental in my success at worlds as well.  Jerry and Pascal had presented me with a pretty daunting race plan at first.  Going out with Emma?! In all honesty, I was scared to death.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, why shouldn’t I have full faith in this race plan? My coaches know my training and have gotten me to this point. I have trusted them all year, so now is the most important time to trust in the plan so I can fully show all the hard work I had been putting in. 

 Finish line

Finish line

Looking Forward

 

            As I mentioned, I am now slowly getting back into training starting off with just some base mileage.  I am super excited to put in a really good fall so I can start this next year off on the right foot.  I feel like this year was not only very successful, but a huge learning year.  It was essentially my “freshman year” of professional running and just like any freshman year, that means a lot of navigating unfamiliar waters.  I can’t wait to continue working on new goals and using all the lessons I’ve learned to focus on more growth! Thanks for following this last year!

 

Courtney 

Almost "go time!"

 

Tomorrow I will be toeing the line to run in the IAAF World Championships in London! To say I am excited would be an understatement.  Before I talk more about this though, I’ll catch you up on everything that has happened over the last two months.

 

At the end of May, I raced in my first Prefontaine Classic, and boy was it a fun one.  I absolutely love running at Hayward Field, and the Hayward magic was present once again.  My coaches, Jerry and Pascal, really wanted me to focus on staying calm and relaxed for the first 2k and then really attack the last 1k of the race.  We felt like this would be good practice for USA’s and allow me to be competitive with the other American girls I would be racing against. 

 

The race went out very fast and I found a spot in the back of the pack and just focused on keeping my composure and executing my race plan.  With 800 meters to go, I found myself catching a large group in front of me and with just over 400 meters to go, I decided to make a move and really pushed the last lap.  I knew I was close to finally breaking the 9:20 barrier and as soon as the board flashed 9:19, I was overwhelmed with joy.  That race was exactly what I needed to get my season back on track after the disappointment I experienced in Doha.

The next morning, I boarded a plane at 6 am to head back to Park City, Utah to continue training at altitude.  Jerry only likes us to drop down to sea level for 48 hours max, so it was a very quick trip.  For the next four weeks, we really buckled down in order to be at our best for USA’s!  Our last month was full of great runs in Park City, post workout smoothies and acai bowls at Ivie in Orem, and pizza and bachelorette nights!

   
  
 
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    Post workout acai bowl at Ivie!

Post workout acai bowl at Ivie!

 Pizza Night!

Pizza Night!

The last weekend of June we had our U.S. Championships in Sacramento, California.  We expected fast races and hot temperatures and that is exactly what we got! This year I found I was definitely a little more nervous than I was at last year’s trials.  Last year I had accomplished so many things in the NCAA, making the Olympic team was just the cherry on top.  This year, making the world’s team was the big focus and I really had to learn how to handle the pressure.

 

Prelims went very smooth for both my teammate, Colleen, and I and we were both very confident with our fitness heading into the final.  Right after our prelim we watched our teammate, Emily, run an awesome race to qualify for her second world’s team in the 10k and Shalane run amazing race after only having been training for a few weeks after her injury.  The next night we saw Shelby win her first national championship in the 5k and Ryan make the team in the 5k.  We were full of inspiration from our teammates and ready for our turn!

 

Our final was at 2 pm, so we were ready for a hot race.  The race started at a very slow pace until Emma Coburn took over.  I focused on executing a very similar race plan to Pre and spent the first 2k staying very relaxed and then pushing the last 1k.  When I crossed the line in second I was so happy to have made my first world’s team and even happier when I turned around and saw my teammate Colleen in third! We were London bound! 

   
  
 
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    Right before our final…”let’s do this”  Photo by Rebeka Stowe

Right before our final…”let’s do this”

Photo by Rebeka Stowe

   
  
 
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    Victory lap  Photo by Brett Guemmer

Victory lap

Photo by Brett Guemmer

The next 6 hours were very hectic to say the least.  We quickly did our victory lap and award’s ceremony and rushed to drug testing so we could get on the road to head to San Francisco.  We were trying to get back up to altitude ASAP, so we were flying out that night to Zurich, Switzerland in order to get to St. Moritz, Switzerland in the Swiss Alps.  We got to the airport with 10 minutes to spare!

   
  
 
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  Award’s ceremony at USA’s

Award’s ceremony at USA’s

 

Despite the rush, we made it safely to St. Moritz, Switzerland, and that is where I trained for the last 6 weeks! I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to train in such a beautiful place with such amazing running.  The trails in St. Moritz are awesome and the weather was fantastic.  Every few days we drove an hour to Chiavenna, Italy, where we are able to do our workouts at sea level.  Being able to do our workouts at sea level has really helped boost our fitness.  We found a wonderful café in Chiavenna called Mastai and it quickly became a post-workout staple.  The workers were so friendly and were always giving us free bags of cookies. 

   
  
 
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    Track in Chiavenna

Track in Chiavenna

Halfway through July, Emily and I made a quick trip to Lucerne to race a flat 3k.  The race went alright, but I definitely left hungry for more.  I was riskier than I had been in previous races, which allowed for a good learning opportunity, but I know I am capable of running much faster.  Nonetheless, I walked away with a 40 second PR and even more motivation in training. 

   
  
 
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  Emily and I in Lucerne, Switzerland

Emily and I in Lucerne, Switzerland

Since then, my training has been going really well! I have PR’d in the 400 and 800 in practice and my steeple workouts have been better than ever.  I am so excited to have the opportunity to hopefully put it all together and show all the hard work I have been putting in at worlds. 

   
  
 
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  Ice bathing in St. Moritz

Ice bathing in St. Moritz

   
  
 
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  Lake St. Mortiz

Lake St. Mortiz

I also had the opportunity to see and run with my Lobo teammate and friend Molly while I was in St. Moritz! It was so much fun to be able to catch up.  I love getting to see teammates in different parts of the world! 

   
  
 
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  Molly and me in St. Moritz

Molly and me in St. Moritz

I am now finally in London with the rest of Team USA! My prelim will be tomorrow, Wednesday, at 7:05 pm in London so 1:05 pm CT.  My only goal for that race is to make the final so that will be the focus. My parents, sister, Griffin, and his parents are all here in London to watch and I am so excited to have their support! Here’s to making the most of this wonderful opportunity I have coming up!

 

Courtney 

 

Back to the Mountains

Life throws many curveballs, some at better times than others.  Unfortunately, during my first Diamond League trip in Doha, I was thrown a curveball.

The day before my race, I came down with what we believe to be food poisoning.  I spent the whole day in bed, unable to keep anything down until late that evening.  I was extremely upset about the situation, but decided all I could do was stay positive and try my best to get out there to race.  I woke up the next morning feeling much better and after doing a short shakeout, decided I would give it a try.  I spent the whole day hydrating as well as I could and forcing down plain pasta noodles to try and regain some energy.  I left for the track with a smile on my face, hoping the positivity would somehow help me pull of a good race. 

Unfortunately, my wish did not come true and the race was one of the hardest races for me and one of my worst openers ever.  While it was extremely disappointing, I was proud I gave it a try.  I knew that it was not a true indication of my fitness, just some bad luck.  

 

A few days after coming home from the trip, my coach and I made the decision to head up to Park City, UT for altitude training along with my teammates Emily Infeld and Colleen Quigley.  I was very happy to head to altitude camp, as I love training in the mountains.  I can thank my amazing Lady Lobos for all the positive associations I have with altitude training. 

 

Anyway, I have been up altitude for two weeks now and I feel that we are already making gains in fitness.  It’s nice to spend time with teammates, really focus on training without distractions, and get a nice boost from the skinny air.  Not to mention our beautiful condo up in the mountains we get to spend our downtime in. 

 

This weekend I am taking a quick 48-hour trip to Eugene to get in one more race before USA’s.  I am very excited to race in my first Pre Classic! I remember sitting in the stands at regionals watching the women’s steeple, wishing I could have been in that race.  Although, I will admit I do miss NCAA post-season racing with my college teammates, I am really looking forward to finally being able to race at Pre and hopefully experience some more Hayward magic. 

Courtney

P.S. You can find more info about how to watch the race on the schedule!

 

Hello from Doha!

First of all, welcome to my brand new website! I am so thankful to have such a wonderful husband, who spent hours building this for me. I am excited to share my journey as a professional runner with you guys.

I am currently in Doha for my very first Diamond League meet! This will be my first steeple and track race of the year and first since Rio.  I am so excited to get back out there and for the season to officially begin.

A lot has happened in the last eight months since Rio.  Griffin and I officially moved to Portland, OR, which has definitely been an adjustment.  We really like the city, but it’s definitely taken some time to get used to the rain.

I switched coaches and training programs.  After finishing my NCAA eligibility, my college coach, Coach Butler, and I both agreed that I needed to try something new and really test the waters with professional running.  My new coaches, Jerry Schumacher and Pascal Dobert, have been awesome and I know are going to help me get to the level I want to be at.  The transition hasn’t always been easy, but my amazing teammates have really helped me a long, and I know that growth doesn’t come without some growing pains.

Griffin and I got married at the end of the year! It was such a fantastic way to end the year, surrounded by family and friends.  We took a short honeymoon to Turks and Caicos before I headed to altitude camp with my Bowerman Babes in Flagstaff, AZ. 

I raced the USA Cross Country Championships in Bend, OR in February, and finished fourth in my first ever 10k.  I qualified for the World Cross Country team, but declined the spot because I wanted to focus my attention to outdoor track.

 Emily Pritt, Carrie Dimoff, Courtney, and Julie Webb at 2017 USATF XC Championships in Bend, Oregon.

Emily Pritt, Carrie Dimoff, Courtney, and Julie Webb at 2017 USATF XC Championships in Bend, Oregon.

Since then, I have been training harder than ever with my teammates to get ready for my first outdoor season as a professional!  I am really excited about my opportunity to race in such a great field on Friday at the Doha Diamond League along with my teammate, Colleen Quigley.  It will be a great test to see where my fitness is at.  It’s going to be a hot one, but an exciting one for sure!  Don’t forget to tune in and cheer for the blondes in red! 

-Courtney