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August 28, 2017

The Flyway - The Impossible Season

BY: COLLIER LAWRENCE

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“I don’t care about the bread, I care what’s in the sandwich.” Lauren Fleshman has a knack for analogies; especially before we’re about to do something hard. Little bits our brains toss around keeping things simple & focused in the moment. This particular occasion was a workout this spring that started and ended with a longer rep, but what we were trying to get out of the workout was in the middle. What follows are excerpts from a stubborn commitment to an unfulfilled goal and the flexibility to get there differently. Snippets of conversations, that on their own (and maybe strung together) are insignificant, but stuck with me. A snapshot of what going from injured, to training for a half, to running an “ultra”, to qualifying for US Champs looked like. Details from a season that, fronted with a hurting heart and backed with stubborn grit, seemed unlikely; impossible if you will.


June 2016 phone call 4 weeks before Olympic Trials

“What if you aren’t made to jump things?”

“That’s ridiculous.”

July 2016 phone call, post Olympic Trials

“There’s a point, the same point, where you keep getting banged up. Step back from the steeple. Do something new. Different.”

“Okay.”

“Let’s get your hamstring better and look at some longer stuff, some road stuff, something new.”

“Alright.”

August 2016 end of season wrap up

“Maybe I’m not the right coach for you. Maybe the training isn’t right for you.”

“I didn’t get injured because of your coaching or training.”

“Think about what you want and how you want it to look and we’ll meet in a few weeks.”

August 2016 in the car with Mel

“You need to find a way to let it go. You can’t do this and be angry. You don’t have the energy to put into being angry and it won’t come from a place that’s fueled with your frustration.”

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September 2016 Pre Season Planning

“Running 9:40s in the steeple isn’t unrealistic. Qualifying for the final at US Champs isn’t unrealistic. I don’t have a track record that says it is realistic. I need to be healthy. I need to be fit. I just refuse to believe that those things are unrealistic.”

“It’s not unrealistic, there are different ways that get you to the same place. You have to be willing to play the game and be willing to play it differently.”

“I want to play. I’ll do a half. I’ll do other events. I’ll run the roads. I can play differently.”

“Alright. It’s on.”

October 2016 when LF told me to pick a half

“Looking at halfs. Can’t do Houston. I don’t have a half or 10k time, which seems to be a theme.”

“Well when you only race steeples...”

“Touche. Maybe Phoenix RnR?”

“Good weather. Flat. Sounds like that’s what you’re looking for.”

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November 20, 2016 post workout, weeks of consistency start to show themselves

“You’re in a fitness chute and it’s like being at a party. You’re having a great time but you’ve been drinking. Don’t make decisions when you’ve been drinking. Keep doing what you’re doing. Smart consistent work.”

Jan 15, 2017: RnR Arizona Half Marathon Race Report

Result: 1:20:08 Disappointed. Unsatisfied. Not a proper display of fitness.

How was I brilliant: On plan first four/five miles. Made the right decision to stop and go to the bathroom. Followed plan all the way through

What I would change: better pre race/warm up planning, including multiple bathroom trips pre +70’ race, recognize and respect the grind early *Know the first one out of the gate isn’t perfect and there is a learning curve*

January 20, 2017 on a treadmill, warmed up, ready to workout

“So Lesko asked me about this relay.”

“Already heard about it. I’m in.”

“...I think they want me to run it?”

“You’re driving the bus. No one training for track, no coach would say this is a good idea.”

“It feels like one of those opportunities you say yes to, even if it messes up things down the line.”

“Yeah. Max King did crazy stuff and ran really well in the steeple.”

“But I’m not going to train for an ultra.”

“No. I’m still prepping you to run 8k-10k and jump over things. That doesn’t change.”

“Okay. Same page. Excellent. What’s the workout?”

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February 4, 2017: US Cross Race Report 10k

Result: 22nd, 38:15, exact same time as last year on a sloppier/harder course

How was I brilliant: gritty the whole way

What I would change: focus on chasing people on the down, not the up

February 2017 at the track, realizing Mel’s going to start racing soon

“How do we plan out my season?”

“We just have to see how you recover from the relay. Be mentally ready to not race until May. You’ll get in a good training block but everything will be delayed. Know as long as you do a good job recovering and keep doing exactly what you’re doing it will come together. There’s just going to be a delay.”

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March 11, 2017 3am, navigating through the dark sandy desert

“I’m glad we said yes to this.”

“Yeah. It would have been a bummer to be sitting at home.”

April 26, 2017 at home drinking coffee, text from LF

“Are you ready to add in a little hurdling today in some form?

“Yes. I am.”

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May 5, 2017 Ken Shannon pre meet

“When’s the last time you raced a 1500?”

“I don’t know. 2007? A decade ago.”

May 13, 2017: Portland Twilight Race Report

Result: 10:01.67

How was I brilliant: Raced first and foremost. Fastest steeple opener.

What would I change: Reign in antsyness the first 1k and not move around so much.

May 25, 2017 sitting on the track, unlacing my spikes after a steeple workout

“You know what I was thinking?”

“What?”

“I’m running out of time. I’m running out of race opportunities. We pushed everything back because I said yes to the Speed Project. At the same time, if I don’t make US Champs because I said yes to the Speed Project I’m okay with that.”

“That’s not a bad place to be.”

June 12, 2017 6am, AirBnB in Portland, morning after Portland Twilight

“That time from yesterday won’t get me in if three people below me race faster this week. Either I stay here and sleep on a couch OR I go home and have to come back in three days to race.”

“You have to make the best decision with the information you’re given.”

June 16, 2017 back in Portland

“What’s your plan?”

 “It’s almost like the time doesn’t matter I just can’t let the other women beat me. So whatever that takes.”

“You are experienced, mature, know how to handle a variety of shit. Own it, as you do.”

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June 16, 2017: Stumptown Steeple Race Report

Result: 9:51.13, should qualify for US champs

How was I brilliant: executed plan to be with the people I wanted to beat at 2k

What would I change: stop going out in 75

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June 23, 2017, day after steeple prelim, second person out of final

“You ran tough last night and went for it.”

“...those first three laps were 76- definitely paid for that.”

“You had to go for it. Would have been hard to fall back 6 seconds by yourself and then muster that last k in that sun.”


There it is. Another season I didn’t make the final at US Champs. I didn’t PR. I went to Europe confident I was, at the very least, going to get my PR and got hurt right out of the gate. So here I am, back where I started, a season done, and sandwiched with injury and unaccomplished goals. It would be dishonest to say I’m not a little upset, but this time I don’t care about the bread, I care what’s in the sandwich; it was fulfilling and far more important than really good bread.

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