As the Olympic Trials approach, I have found myself reflecting frequently upon my experience making the Olympic Team in 2012 and the development of my running career in the years that have followed. Four years ago, the idea of being an Olympian represented the furthest extent to which I could dream or imagine myself achieving in the sport. Making the team, and the manner in which I qualified, felt like the dramatic ending to a movie. I’d spent years gradually working my way on to the national stage in track and field, and it culminated in one glorious moment where I achieved to the highest of my ability.
Then I went to London, and despite running another 5 second PR, I failed to make the final round of the 5000m at the Olympic Games. I walked off the track feeling humbled and disappointed, but mostly very eager for the next chapter of my career. In that moment I knew that the next four years would be devoted to building myself into a better athlete that could be more competitive on that stage. It didn’t take long for my disappointment to transform into motivation. My experience in making the Olympic Team made me feel as though anything were possible if I surrounded myself with the right people and was willing to take risks in the pursuit of my goals. I spent time thinking about what I wanted in my career and the improvements I wanted over the next Olympic cycle. I realized that I wanted to look back on my career and view my 2012 Olympic Trials race not as the highlight, but rather a starting point. My desire to rise in the sport, and the related process, made two things very clear to me: I wanted Drew to be my full time coach, and I wanted to be a part of a team.
At the time, Drew was coaching at UC Davis, and one year later Lauren Wallace graduated from the program after a successful senior season as an 800m runner. She elected to pursue professional running and became my first professional training partner. In 2014 we officially formed the NorCal Distance Project and I have thrived off the presence of other athletes with their own lofty goals. The athletes that are just out of college and hoping to make a splash on the professional running scene keep me in touch with the underdog mindset that I thrived off when I was in that position. Athletes hoping to make their first Olympic team remind me of the importance of having a relentless belief in yourself and the fact that the Olympic Trials is a setting where individuals emerge and define themselves in the sport. I love being around athletes that have that same edge and passion that helped me break through in 2012.
In the spring of 2015, when I was injured, those same touchstones helped me stay engaged with the sport as I waded through a long and difficult recovery process . Although there were moments when it wasn’t easy, I still went to the US Championships as a spectator because I love the sport and did not want to miss the event. Having teammates competing gave me personal investment and reward even in the absence of my own racing. I watched some of the races with Kate Grace, who would soon join our team and was also in the midst of her own injury woes at the time. The timing of her arrival in Sacramento and her recovery from injury synced almost perfectly with my own. Together we blazed the comeback trail over the fall and winter, and sharing that journey with her has also allowed me to identify with her positive momentum this spring.
As I head to Oregon this week for my final preparation for the Olympic Trials, I am grateful for the teammates who have enhanced my experience as a professional athlete in recent years while keeping me excited about what is yet to come. When I toe the line on July 2nd at my second US Olympic Trials it will represent another benchmark in my career but also a springboard for our team as we seek to continue building our legacy in Sacramento and the sport of Track and Field.