So tonight was a mix of highs and lows. I felt ready to go, but things changed shortly after the gun went off. I stayed back from a blistering pace but even the more relaxed pace proved too fast for my legs once dehydration set it. I was a last minute sub on our 4x4, a decision and a race rooted in pride and anger that resulted in a silver medal and one of my fastest splits in years. The balance of one of my worst runs and one of my bests leaves me with mixed emotions but also allows me to take in the whole experience beyond the oval.I'll start with my personal reflections on the my races and then give an overview of the meet for Team USA. I still a few days later am at a loss for what transpired in the 5,000 on Thursday night. The best thing I can come up with is I was/am just tired. When I found out I was appointed to team USA it was late June of last year and I was coming off 6 weeks of physical therapy for my foot. The injury plagued me for the better part of 2012, and I was not able to train much at all until late October. Since then, all eyes were focused on Thursday. Everything was about getting healthy, staying healthy and getting fit. Once I was fit it was about getting faster. A few early races showed I was a bit behind where I wanted to be, but in late May/Early June things were starting to click.
I ran a 3k in 90+ degree weather, and ran a respectable time. A week later I went to Boston and ran my fastest 5k in 2 years, less than 15 seconds off my PB (or PR whichever term you prefer). Things were looking up. I had about 6 weeks till the games, and that was plenty of time to get into PR shape. John (my coach) never felt like I fully recovered from that 5k. I kept pushing with workouts and mileage despite feeling tired and maybe even a little sick. Everything was focused on Thursday. I had another 5k in NYC and I did not finish, stepping off the track just after 3k. I was worried, but still felt there was enough time to get my act together. I had two decent workouts before leaving for Israel, and my two workouts in Israel were great. Everything was starting to click, and I thought I was ready to go on Thursday. However, it just was not my night. I made a promise to myself and perhaps even more importantly to my parents who flew 6,000 miles each way to see me, that I would not drop out of this race, no matter what.
The gun went off and two African-Israelis took to the front and made it obvious that tonight was not going to be a tactical affair. I could sense the pace was fast so I stayed back. I was still out in 70 seconds for the first lap - a touch too fast. Soon another two African-Israelis would come around and lead our pack settling into a pace that should have been much more comfortable - 73 seconds/lap or thereabouts. We came through 1k in about 3 minutes even, 2k in just over 6 minutes, this should have been a fine pace for me, but as every additional lap went by and I tried to think positively or even better not at all, the race and my body was crumbling. It could have been the heat or the humidity or that I have been hammering my body for the last 9 months straight - I really couldn't tell you. What I do know is that for that race, it was not my night.
I had not run a 4x4 relay since college, Sophomore year to be exact, when we were DQed for a lane violation at our conference meet. I had not broken 60 seconds for 400 in at least a year (although I had only run them in workouts). Oh and I was completely dead from my race, my muscles felt as depleted as I could ever imagine, still I could not allow my Maccabiah experience to be defined by that 5,000m race. I would be our second leg, ironically the same leg that caused our 4x4 team in college to be disqualified (I was not our 2nd leg that time). I took the baton and set off, I felt like I was going fast, but would not have been surprised if when I crossed the line I was told a split in the mid 60s or slower. Our relay would finish 2nd, in a time that is less than stellar, but still 2nd meant a medal.
This meet was less about medals for me and more about racing. If I was to run a good time or compete well tactically then that was good enough for me. I was happy to receive a medal but I wanted to feel like I earned it. I finally heard from our coach my split - 54.01 seconds. Is this crazy fast? No, but it is perhaps my 3rd fastest 400 ever and better yet, it was the fastest split on our relay (although 3 of us were all very close to one another). I was especially shocked that I was able to get my legs to move that quickly after their performance in the 5k. I can only imagine that a mix of anger and pride led to that effort. I needed a feeling that I belonged at this meet and following my 5k, that feeling did not exist.
Standing to receive my medal, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, it was not how it should have been. It was not my race, it was not a fast time overall for the relay and countless other thoughts of negativity. On the other hand, I was here, I was on the podium, I was getting and medal and I had every reason to be happy and excited about it. The experience goes beyond just the 2 or so days of Track and Field competition, and I knew that soon I would realize that. I tried to explain to myself, that the 3 weeks I was here were not for that one night of competition but rather the other way around. The whole experience had been great up until that point and I need not spoil it with negative thoughts.
As a whole the meet was a good one for the team. We had some upsets and we had some great triumphs. Sean completed the 100/200 meter sweep, Danielle won the 1500, Greta the 800, Cameron won Gold in the 10k and Bronze in the 5k. Kathleen won the 10k, while Leah won the 3k and in one of the most exciting finishes of the meet, Jeff out-leaned an Israeli for Bronze in the 800 by .02 seconds. We took home a bunch of medals in the throws, Ziggy on the women's side, Jacob and Mike for the men. Maya won the high hurdles and Adam placed in both hurdle events. Kara took Bronze in the pole vault and I am sure I am missing countless other medals. I know we had our defeats too, people expecting big things and coming home empty but like I said before, there is no need to dwell on the negative.
Since the meet, we have been enjoying the Tel Aviv night life, something I think we will continue to do until we come home. In fact there is a big celebration tonight that we are getting ready to leave for so Lila Tov (good night) and I will fill you in on more next time.