What ended up an American Record Performance at Millrose Games started out as something very different: me stuck in sponsor no-mans-land, stressed to the gills about how I was going to pay my bills. My contract was up with Nike on December 31st, and I’ll have to give you the details on all this stuff another time, but let’s just say that despite my best efforts, nothing was resolved in time for Millrose. Thank God I have an amazing family and support I could rely on, many of which showed up to cheer me on in NYC…I needed them even more than usual with the business side of my job so up in the air, but even with my family, the stress of trying to figure out my financial future was taking its toll.
Ever since the day I arrived in New York, a full week before the big race, it was obvious the stress was getting to me. The last couple of conversations with my former had left me feeling angry at their treatment of my situation and I just didn’t want to give my energy to that nonsense, I needed to find my positive power, but I was having a bit of trouble finding my old friend, instead I found myself with little energy. In an effort to power up I grew withdrawn, trying to find my place of solace in my own mind. I wanted to just be on my own to give myself sometime to think about nothing, I couldn’t look at my phone or email, I was too incapable of having any energy to deal with what might be on the other end. The reality was, there was nothing I could do, but wait and get comfortable with the fact that whatever came at Millrose, would go without compensation from a sponsor, I would have to find my inner chi.
What follows is how the stress built up, and how my support crew helped pull me through it, over the course of the week. I’m so proud and grateful that it resulted in an AMERICAN RECORD!!
How it went down:
Tuesday: Until this day, I was just getting settled in and was doing my best “just doing me”, but on this particular morning, signs of cracking began to show. I woke up exhausted with very low energy, the stress from the last couple of weeks dealing with this sponsorship stuff really started to eat at me. Unsure of what to do, Louis called up my track coach, Tony. Tony advised me to go on an easy run, then go home and sleep. Although my run was the most beautiful form of therapy, I came back to the hotel super tired. My remedy; lay in bed for the rest of the night, totally uncharacteristic of this energizer bunny.
Wednesday: I woke up feeling even more ill than the day before, but was determined to pull myself out of bed and head to the armory for a tune up session; this would be the last one before the BIG SHOW on Saturday. They just painted the night before, so I was a little weary of warming up inside, but it was so cold outside, I did so anyway. I completed the speed portion of my workout, and just had some fly’s to finish, but I began to feel faint and very light headed. I started to walk outside before having to take a seat. ‘Oh no I thought, I am getting some sort of virus or maybe it was the paint…’. I called Tony, again… Louis apparently had already called and talked to him. Tony assured me I just needed to rest, he explained how I needed to de-stress and forget about all that was troubling me regarding my sponsor. I didn’t want to rest; saying “, but we need to do more” “I need to run later this afternoon” “I didn’t get to cool down, are you sure we have done enough?”. (Haha! It’s funny writing it, because I just wanted to do the very best I could, but my body was disagreeing with my push) Tony reaffirmed I should “relax.” ‘OK… fair enough,’ I went back to the hotel and told my self I was going to do a shakeout, but fought with my conscious since Tony suggested I lay in bed, I agonized over the thought of me withering away in a hotel bed, when I wanted to explore the city, I was just too faint that day.
Thursday: Its Valentines Day!!! I woke up feeling much better. I attended The Millrose Games Press Conference at the New York Athletic Club, ate and then headed back to the room for a much-needed nap. I was baffled that the little energy I spent candidly answering questions and engaging in delightful conversations had put me in such an energy deficit. Before I make it back to my room, I run into Bernard Lagat and I plan a time we would meet up to do an easy run knowing this would help me make it out and not sleep for too long. We decide on 4:00pm, I had 2 and half hours to nap.
When I awoke from my nap Louis had left me a card and box
4:00pm- RUN TIME!!!
I ask Kip (Bernard Lagat) “How long are you running for?” he says “30 or 40 minutes” I say “Cool, I’m gonna run for 30 minutes.” to which he replies, “Ok, I’ll run for 40minutes…” “Really, I say, just because I am going for 30?” gotta love the competitiveness…
I return from our run and am feeling good about how I feel this evening. I shower up and Louis takes me to eat for a Valentines Day dinner! Must have been the tremendous love and rest that had me on my feet.
I am really adamant about taking Tony’s advice and just resting, so I sleep in until my body wakes me up. Since we don’t have cable at home, I indulge in a little television for a half hour. After shutting of the tube, I force myself to hang tight a little longer by cracking open my book “fearless”, as you can imagine I grew very inspired plotting how I can apply this gained inspiration to my current state. I get a grip, seize this time, claim it and make it my own. Finally I pop out of bed, exclaiming I have cabin fever and I need to get out of here. I can see the sun, but it can’t see me!
Louis had been making his way around town during my slumber. Determined to have the sun find me, and be free of troubling thoughts, I set out toward central park…. Ah, there atop a huge rock, individuals lie bundled up allowing the sun to beam on them, I have found my friends and my new spot of rest. Louis calls me up recognizing I had gone rogue and decides he will join me in my peaceful blissfulness.
Once I had enough, or it got cold rather, I headed back to the room to prepare for my shakeout run. As I was getting dressed for my run Louis, pulls out a bag that says GAP on it. ‘Ok, what’s this about I’m thinking’, I excitedly grab the bag. I look inside and it’s this bright orange tank top and huge-oversized cotton black shorts. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but I really didn’t find these items cute at all. Louis explains himself, “I don’t think you should wear your Red Bull stuff tomorrow, they’re not your apparel sponsor and the uniform logo does not meet IAAF sizing requirements, you could get disqualified and if you achieve any accolades this weekend, they would be wiped away.” I feel stunned and frustrated by this news because, Red Bull has been an amazing product sponsor helping market me, but he is right, they are not my apparel sponsor, not only could this limit my visibility for achieving an apparel sponsor, because it would look like Red Bull had it covered, I could get disqualified. I decide this is a sweet opportunity to design my own uniform and use those Theater and Performing arts Costume design skills. Since I only had a 15-20 minute run to conquer I suggest we run to the nearest clothing store and pick out something to wear, I really wanted to wear something that was representative of me and my personality, I wanted something fun, after all who knows. As, I am running, I find myself frustrated, thinking this isn’t fair… I express my feeling to Louis. I tell him “I don’t think this is normal” I ask him “How many 26 year old professional athletes that just came off an Olympic year finishing 5th place do you think are running around the streets of New York, combining a shakeout and a shopping trip to prepare for race?” He looks at me thinking about my questions, he has no answer. He looks at me like he’s sorry. “I mean honestly,” I continue… “Think about it, this should never ever happen to any one.” Just as long as it took me to say this is not fair, I again, embrace it. And as I pass a few stores I see American Apparel and say… “It’s time to get funky with it” Im sweaty and nasty, frankly I smell. I feel a bit ashamed because it is without a doubt I will have to try some things on. I don’t think I am the only one though because there are about four other women in there all wearing workout clothes, I don’t feel so bad anymore.
At first I want to wear something nude, but nude in the clothing world is not nude for my skin tone, it’s peach. Then I decide flare!!!… and then I spot leopard print!!! I have always had something for animal print, more specifically leopard print, while I try and look at other things, I can’t pull myself away from grabbing the leopard print bra, and then I spot mandarin orange hot pants, their bright, their sassy, they say my name on it. I grab it and try and figure out, ‘how am I going to make this leopard print halter work’. I don’t know how, but I buy the two items and a pair of suspenders, thinking I would hold the halter up with supsenders to my hot pants. (I’m laughing thinking about me racing in that.)
75 bucks later and no returns on the halter, we are out of there. Louis and I walk to a place called Josie’s for dinner. We sit and talk about the whole ordeal a bit, but we don’t let it cloud our emotions, we laugh, we eat, we move on.
Back at the hotel, the show begins…
I can’t wear the outfit like this… if you can imagine why… inertia plus a strapless plus national television= no bueno… Also, I don’t know if you’ve seen how big our name BIBs our getting, but no one would be able to see the leopard print anyway. After a few times jogging around seeing if there is any way my top will stay up, and having it fall to my waist time and time again, it hits me, ‘what a cute belt!’.. halter as a belt on the hot pants and black brand-less sports bra!! Winning!!!
I am happy; I can’t wait to wear my outfit. I lay in bed close my eyes, and fall asleep with a smile across my face… I am truly happy.
Saturday; Race day: Not worried about a single thing, excited to compete and confident that I am rested, I step out of my bed feeling super bad (like the Michael Jackson kind of bad).
I shakeout with various different pump up songs blasting through my earphones… I am ready.
7:20pm- catch bus to track
7:40pm- arrive at track
8:10pm- begin warm up
9:05pm- 600 meter women are called to the track
9:10pm- Lagat has just finished his American Record run, he takes a lifetime to do his victory lap, but I take advantage of him still being out there and decide I would give him hug hoping his American Record juju rubs off on me. I stride out, give him a hug, congratulate him and before I know it it’s time to go.
9:something past 9:13 ( our original start time): We are called to our marks , and then BANG!
I really can’t tell you anything that happened during the race, because I honestly don’t know. All I know is I felt bliss, happiness, and freedom. And then I felt the finishing tape require me to stop.
What a beautiful feeling, I got to go out there and do what I do best, be me and be free! Seized that moment.
I put my hands on my knees as I felt the lactic rush that happens when you finish a race and then ‘I realize, 1:23!!! The American Record was 1:26, I have the American Record!’ I am interviewed only to find out I just missed the World Record!! I am something more than happy, I just don’t know what to call it, “How close was I (to the world record)?!” I ask Lewis Johnson, the announcer. I was 0.15 seconds off he explained, that’s a half blink. ‘WOW!!!’ I think. I take my victory lap feeling extra amped from the crowd… I am summoned by US anit-doping; I coerce my drug-testing lady to cool down with me since I am not allowed to leave her site. We chat a bit about this, that and the other, and when she runs out of wind, I pop my headphones in too excited to really think about what 1:23 really means. I am just joyous. I finally am able to pee, I submit my sample and get on the bus to the hotel. I accept congratulatory applauds and words from my comrades, I even exchange some to others. That night before bed, Louis asks me how I feel; I say “What a whirlwind past couple of weeks, but the only word I can think of is perseverance”. At the end of the day, I have come away with an American Record and a whole lot of confidence. With or without a sponsorship I know my support system that remains constant. It’s back to California, where I lobby for a sponsor.