Junior Olympic Nationals Diary: Meagan Brandli

Submitted by: Meagan Brandli

Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005 at 10:45 a.m.
There are three days before my big race so I have already started preparing. The biggest thing I will have to keep in mind is that it will be really cold. Last year this race was held in Illinois but this year it will be in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, there is a big storm forecast for this weekend. It looks like there will be six to eight inches of snow for me to run in. I did live in Indiana for six years so I am excited about seeing snow, but I have never even thought of running in it!

Yesterday was our last cross-country practice before the race so we worked on starts. (The most important part because there will be about 300 girls at the beginning of my race.) We also went over goals. My best time was at the Footlocker South, where I did a 3k or 1.8 miles in 11:18. I decided to have my goal time be aggressive so I wanted to break 11 minutes and be an All American which is top 25.

I know that runners of all ages and abilities get hurt or injure themselves from overuse. This is one of the reasons that I only run three times a week but I try to swim every day. Nationals are really important to me so even swimming ended Tuesday until I get back.

My friends, family and even teachers are very supportive of my running so I feel if I sleep, stretch, and drink lots of water then all other preparing will fall into place.

Thursday at 9 p.m.
After about a two-hour plane ride to Rhode Island, we checked in to our hotel about 6:30 p.m. It was pretty quiet because of the people we knew; we were the first ones there. We just got back from getting our running packets that included our numbers and race information. The volunteer who helped us retrieve our packets kindly mentioned that there probably would be a lot of snow and it wouldn't be the fondest race we would run. That was probably the first time I really began to get nervous.

Friday, Dec. 9, 2005
After waking to eight inches of snow we went for to a lovely continental breakfast at the Sheraton. All of our friends stated arriving and also my dad flew in that morning. We decided the best way to prepare for the race since none of us had run in snow before was to run (walk, jog, etc., because it was way too cold) the course. It had already starting snowing and we could tell it was going to be bad for a while. When we got there were only five of the seven people that were with us, volunteered to go. After we had gone about 400 meters a white-out (small blizzard) came. Even though the race was the next morning there had been no effort to mark the course yet. We could not make out the course in the snow with the map we had, so we ran back to the car and decided to eat lunch. After about an hour and a half we went back to the course. We even had fun because the course was really beautiful with all the untouched snow. We finished the day with a big steak from Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse (my usual pre-race meal) and went to bed really early.

Saturday, Dec. 10, 2005
I had my mom wake me up about 7:30 a.m. so we would have plenty of time to be at the course. I had a bowl of Cheerios (chosen for the security because I have eaten it before almost every race) and put on many layers so I wouldn't freeze before the race even began. My mom and dad wanted to stay a little longer at the hotel to be packed up after the race was over so I drove to the course with my friend McKenzie and her mom. When we arrived there was a really long line of cars and even some people who claimed that they had walked from their hotel. This was my first hint that we may actually miss the race. When we realized that parking was three to four miles away, McKenzie and I decided to get out and walk to the starting line. We did not know that it was one mile up hill. During the first part of our long walk we had the worst thoughts running through our heads. Thoughts like where to warm up, where we needed to check-in, and were we even going to make the race. Just then, my dad ran up. He had my mom leave him at the bottom of the hill. Little did we know then that everyone in the car would miss the race because of the lack of busses able to bring them from the parking lot.

When we reached the starting area we started to stretch. We decided that warming up was out of the question. The backs of my legs were already sore. My dad went to find out where we needed to be. He could not find any officials to ask and could not find a parent who knew. The race was to be starting right then and we still did not know where to go. By following the crowd of kids that looked like our age group we are able to find the start. It turned out that the race was postponed 30 minutes. (Good thing!)

As they were putting us in our groups by region, I realized that three regions had clean grass to start in. My region was standing in about one foot of snow. Finally the race began. By pulling my knees to my chest with every step I was able to get out to a fairly decent start. For most of the race I was gaining places on some of the girls and was able to maintain 27th or so. Towards the end of the race the soreness from walking the hill was evident in my stride and I began to slide back in the pack. I wasn't happy with my 52nd place, but I was glad it was over.

As I came across the finish, I saw my mom, grandma and McKenzie's mom. They had just gotten there and missed the race. We took some pictures and left.

This race has given me lots of experience when it comes to preparation and running in adverse conditions. I also gained confidence in my ability to move past a rough start and still run a fairly good race. I look forward to having a better time in Spokane, WA next year and the joy of overcoming the obstacles that running will throw at me.