alternate title : From “Ka-Flez-a-what?” to US Champs
USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships are this weekend.
Right now you’re either, “Yeah, NO DUH, it’s only like the biggest meet of the year” or “Hey aren’t you that girl from that sports bra post??” In which case, 1) shhh, no one likes a know-it-all and 2) yes, and that six pack was drawn on, in case you’d been wondering.
Anyway this is what all the Des Moines and #USAoutdoors talk is about on Twitter. It’s actually pretty exciting stuff - these races determine who goes to Moscow in August to represent the US in the World Championships. Basically the Olympic Trials of a non-Olympic year. The ALCS of baseball. The second-to-last rose ceremony.
(forgive me run gods for mentioning terrible reality tv in the likeness of your sport – I’m looking for relateability here and promise it is with good motive…)
I’m not here to weigh in on the 1500m favorites, or tell you what's in Iowa other than corn and a track, or dissect the aerodynamics of Evan Jager’s floppy blonde shag. Although that would be kind of awesome… Oiselle I’m totally up for the assignment if we can pull some strings. I passed high school physics so I’m totally qualified.
No, I’m here as an Average Joe. Maybe like some of you. A new-to-the-game mid-packer who has spent more time with her feet under a barstool than in her running shoes. Someone who can’t convert meters to miles, still stumbles over pronouncing “Keflezighi”, and who up until a year ago thought Track and Field went into hibernation every four years between Olympics.
I know I’m not alone there, don’t lie to me.
But I’m learning! I’ve been navigating the path towards Running Fandom and am shocked at how complex this seemingly simple sport is! Plus my instinctive curiosity likes to blurt things out before my brain chimes in or I can pull a Google sneak, leading to some pretty embarrassing moments. Like that time I asked if they ran the ENTIRE 10k on the track (they do), what “AR” stood for (American Record), or when I told a bunch of big time runners that I liked Desi because “I’m from the midwest, too!” (her team is based in Michigan, she is from California).
Rookie reporting for duty. Saying what everyone else is thinking and asking stupid questions since 1986.
It was actually an accident I fell down this professional running fan rabbit hole, but I’m so glad that I did. Probably because I’m a Cleveland native and we haven’t had a decent pro team to cheer for in nearly a decade…
Last January a friend asked me on a whim to go to Houston for the Marathon Olympic Trials, not knowing I had frequent flyer miles burning a hole in my pocket. I figured it’d be the same as cheering any other race, just without the 20,000 “normal runners” chase pack and probably fewer alcohol-involved Race Eve activities.
“What the hell, why not? Let’s go!”
Man, I had no idea. We ran all over the city cheering our little hearts out, and by the time we stationed ourselves at the finish line (oh you know, barely two hours after the start) I felt the excitement and nerves as if it were my own children we were watching. A few days before I could’ve picked Kara, Shalane, and Ryan out of a line up, but probably not anyone else. But there I was, screaming “GO DESI!!!” at the top of my lungs, choking back tears for Amy and Dathan, and agreeing with the person next to me that Deena really is one of the most inspiring women ever.
yes, that’s my long-ass arm cowbelling my new BFF Shalane in to victory
It was like someone picked me up and hurtled my body out of “Content Hobby Jogger Land” straight into a fiery universe of OMG I LOVE RUNNING AND THE MARATHON LETS REGISTER FOR A RACE RIGHT NOW!!!
(Which I did, a few days later. Huge restraint not signing up from my smart phone right there at the finish line.)
A few months later I got to go to the Track & Field Trials, which sealed my fate as a certified Fan Girl. Photo finishes, this crazy “steeple” water pit thing, all these new names and faces to learn (slash people to stalk on Twitter)…
Emily & I at Hayward – that’s the pained expression of a 3-day T&F cram sesh coupled with “I don’t ever want to leave!” and a side of “ugh it’s going to rain and we didn’t buy ponchos!”
It was so easy to get invested in all of the stories – Lauren Fleshman’s battle back from injury, Amy Acuff making her FIFTH Olympics, Morgan Uceny’s 1500m win after a heartbreaking fall at Worlds the year before… And there was this relateability, like, ‘They run, I run! We’re practically the same!’ that makes you feel like you’re cheering for a teammate instead of some herculean giant like other professional sports.
Well, until you realize this:
the fastest 400 I’ve run is 88 seconds.
I almost died. So, go on with your marathon pace legit faster than my sprint, Shalane… (thanks for sharing, Mac) Okay so the common bond is there, albeit a bit of a stretch. Like saying Gordon Ramsey and I both cook things. Technically, that is true.
The topic is slipping away from me. Let’s get back to US Champs.
Your first step is to follow @Flotrack on Twitter. They are your lifeblood for all things coming up, currently right-this-second happening, and insight into the wide world of running.
Your second step is to tune in for the events this weekend. I’m going to be herding a bachelorette stampede through Nashville but will be secretly watching NBC in the back room and sneaking Flotrack updates between karaoke sets.
BROADCAST SCHEDULE. NBC, ESPN2, Universal Sports. Actual, real tv. You can watch at home.
The Oiselle Nest will be in Des Moines being the super fans they are, cheering on our own Kate Grace, Kara Foster, and Collier Lawrence. Count on @oiselle and @oiselle_team for the on-and-off track coverage all weekend. You know those birds do it right.
Sorry if the groupie thing is weird, Kate, but you totally asked for it when you decided to be a well-educated, personable, freaking fast piece of ass.
Just for fun, while you’re in the process of adding handles to your follows list, here are some of my favorite runners competing this weekend, definitely worthy of an add:
Alysia Montano - 800m American Record holder. Runs like she’s filled with balls and fire topped off with her signature “flying flower” in her hair. How’s that for juxtaposition, MOMA?
Alexi Pappas - The ultimate track hipster. You may know her from her homemade horse singlet or the video of her cheering her partner Jordan Hasay lap-by-lap with gems like “you’re a princess!” and “don’t forget about that giant marshmallow!”
Lolo Jones - Olympic hurdler, Vine afficionado.
*unofficially tested and collected by an unofficial source but hardly arguable
And that’s what this Average Joe has to say about Nats, and pro running in general.
Who knows what the next edition of Connecting the Circuit will hold - I’ve come a long way from those pre-Houston days, but am still a total newb. The opportunities for on-the-job lessons are endless! Grilling Fast K8 on the secret to those abs? Putting pro race paces into perspective with things like speeding bullets or your morning commute? Testing my deteriorated athleticism on the steeple? (a water pit faceplant is likely. I'll have to check my insurance coverage first.)
Just say the word, Oiselle. The mission is already accepted.
Sarah OUaL, aka “Limey”