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.

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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