After Alicia Freese PO ’10 placed second in the 10,000-meter race at the Cal-Nevada Championships last Saturday, she cooled down with the first- and third-place finishers. All three complained of stomach cramps.
Coach Kirk Reynolds assured Freese that this is common after the 10k, which is one of the more daunting distance events. “When you’re really busting a gut for a long time duration, the blood in your stomach and intestines moves out to your leg and arm muscles. The blood in your stomach normally helps with digestion, so when it’s not there, you start to get cramps. No one has ever died from stomach cramps; it’s just a matter of pain tolerance.”
Four P-P women raced the 25 laps last Saturday. Freese set a new school record with a time of 36:00, improving on the record she set two years ago by over 30 seconds. Rose Haag PO ’10 finished fifth in 37:59, a personal record. Zoe Meyers PO ’10 and Kayla Eland PZ ’08 also set personal records, finishing in 40:44 and 40:59 respectively.
What makes the 10k hard isn’t the pace, at least not at first. It’s hitting the same pace again and again, 25 times. Each lap, it gets a little bit harder.
“But even in the beginning when the pace feels light and easy,” Freese says, “There is always this nagging thought: ‘Oh my god, I still have twenty laps to go?’”
The P-P women had a group of fans calling out splits (the pace per lap), but even so, Freese said, “During the rest of the lap, I would be constantly trying to gauge my speed. The main reoccurring thought I had was, am I slowing down?”
Freese says she wanted “to ignore the lap count and not think about the distance. The problem is, when you’re running 25 laps around a track, there isn’t much else to think about.”
Thinking enough, but not too much, can be a delicate balance. Eland refers to the “10k hypnosis,” which hit her around lap 11 or 12.
Haag got distracted thinking about a family story. “My grandma applied for a job and had to add a list of numbers. She did it quickly, and when asked if she wanted to double-check her arithmetic, said confidently that she didn’t need to. I encouraged myself to race with the same confidence, but then realized that if I was able to think so clearly, I probably wasn’t running fast enough.”
Eland managed to snap out of her hypnosis by “singing/ rapping the song ‘G code’ by Geto Boys in [her] head and really pushing [her]self to go faster.”
All things considered, Freese says, “I want to like the 10k, but the truth is, I don’t.” Not because of stomach cramps; but because “on the track, it is painfully apparent just how many 400’s I have left to run.” Nevertheless, she plans to race another at the Mount Sac Relays at the end of April to “hopefully clock an auto for nationals [35:48].”
Haag and Meyers hope to improve their times and qualify for nationals, as well. The provisional standard is 37:30, but for the past few years, the last qualifier has run below 37:00.
Eland, who loves the 10k, is hoping for a future race where she’ll have “some extreme focus and determination for all 25 laps, and maybe get Geto Boys to come rap on the side of the track. This would be ideal.”