Stanford has been infamous among Lynbrook runners for its notorious heat, cramped starts, and slow races overall. I don’t feel any of these pressures. For me, There has always been a PR in the cards at Stanford. I owe this I to the strength of my family behind me, my ability to negotiate the numerous bends with ease, and the rolling terrain of the course that is conducive to faster times.
Coming off of a 16:26 at Crystal the past Tuesday, I was hoping to make a larger impact at Stanford on Saturday. In preparation for the race, I slept at 11, much earlier than I had been during the week. However, I was too nervous. I woke up at 5 in the morning in a cold sweat. Reassuring myself that everything would be okay, I fell back asleep and woke up two hours later.
With regards to pre-race diet, my dad made me a special omelette sandwich on whole wheat with avocado and cheese. I scarfed down the bagel sandwich quickly, and nibbled on some almonds until it was time to go.
The temperature started to pick up after our prolonged warmup. I began to sweat profusely – and the race hadn’t even started yet. I took generous sips of water, hoping to sustain the high heat before the start of our race. After our team’s Woh Bundy, we crowded onto the line for the start. Justin and I stood together on the front line as we waited for the starter’s signal. We shook hands with the team occupying the box left of us, who had made the trip all the way from Oregon.
The starter swept his red flag across and then pointed both his flag and the pistol skywards. CLACK – he dropped his flag down and fired the gun simultaneously. Both Justin and me strode forward, trying to avoid the cramped central pack within the first 100 meters. We rounded the first turn, and… CRACK CRACK. Everyone skidded to a stop and heaved sighs of relief. All 243 of us retreated slowly to the start line again as the race crew helped a fallen runner to his feet.
We lined up at the start again – once more, with feeling. CLACK. We were off again. Justin and I pushed forward, staying ahead of the massive chase pack. We regrouped together after the first 400m and settled into a comfortable pace around twentieth place. Justin and I stuck together for the next couple of miles. We matched each other stride for stride – we were in sync.
Rounding the numerous bends and hairpin curves on the golf course, we worked our way to the front. Coaches stationed along the course would remind us about our position in the race and bark splits at the mile markers and 3K. Both Justin and me wanted to stay near the lead pack.
The race was perfect. Heat wasn’t an issue for me, and I didn’t feel any pain. I was gliding along the padded grass, accompanied with Justin. Swinging around the halfway mark, we chased Ben Zaeske of Los Altos. We were moving together briskly, pushing forward and wrapping quickly around the tight turns. I could hear my dad cheering me on at the hairpin, and I accelerated harder, pushing up the slope to catch up with the now strung-out lead pack. Slowly but surely, we were working our way towards the front. We snuck our way into the top ten and held our line.
With about 800 to go, I started accelerating up the slight gradient towards the finish straightaway. “If you’re feeling good, just go” Justin gasped. I nodded and moved up, matching a stride of another runner with a quarter mile to go. I could see the blurred digits on the clock as I strode closer. The clock struck 16 minutes, and I knew a great race was within my reach. I lengthened my stride and slackened my arms, straightening for home. An Oregon runner from the box adjacent to us shot ahead of me. I followed him to the finish, pushing through the chute.
As I fiddled with my laces, fumbling the RFID timing chip off of my flats, I couldn’t help breaking into a smile. I had improved my time by more than half a minute, running a 16:25. To top it off, I had finished well in the top ten, and my adjusted time read a slightly faster 16:24.1. I grinned as I looked skywards, knowing that my uncle would’ve been proud.
However, walking back to the car with my dad, I knew there was still work to be done. I thought ahead, setting my sights on a solid CCS race and a sub-16 5K. Even with the white Stanford top finishers shirt draped on my shoulders, I knew that there were still greater things on the horizon.