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Running Right Along

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link   All Posts
 Jessie Lukasik Back in 2010, I set aside September as rugby month. Now, a year later, I’ve evolved a bit. September is Tri Team month. September is Running Club month. September is race month.

A little background info: in March of this year, I was sitting at my desk working when Dale Carty, a good friend from Swab Summer, waltzed right in and dropped a crazy idea, “Hey Jessie, want to do the Marine Corps Marathon with me?” I’d never seriously thought about doing a marathon before, and considering the workloads the Academy forces us to endure, training for a 26.2 mile road race should have been out of the questions. But, I’ve always been a little overly ambitious. Besides, plenty of cadets run the MCM every year, so it couldn’t be that crazy of an idea. And, with his huge smile, charming Virgin Islands accent, and upfront manner, Dale is terribly convincing. So, I popped off, “Yeah, let’s do it,” and we registered that day.

Flash-forward to the end of the summer – after going on summer assignments for 12 weeks and having no time or place to run during those three months, as soon as leave hit, I began to hit the pavement…hard. Everyone knows that when you start an aggressive running program you’re supposed to ease your way into it, build up a mileage base bit-by-bit, avoid overtraining. I may have skimmed over that particular piece of advice…like I said, overly ambitious.

Long story short, when I got back to school in August and tried to throw rugby practice into the mix of heavy mileage – running in cleats, cutting, starting, stopping sprinting, going to ground, the whole nine yards – I ran into some problems. Essentially, I blew out my shins, knees, and adductors all within the first week of practice. Ouch. Clearly something had to go – marathon training and rugby was just too much for my obviously underprepared body to handle. And seeing as I’d already registered for MCM, Nation’s Triathlon, and the Niantic Half Marathon, I decided to sit the rugby season out.

So let me rephrase my opening statement – September is race month and PT month. The athletic trainers at the Academy, or the PT center in the clinic, are always readily available for ailing athletes. Running at all has required extensive visits to the clinic for ESTIM and ice treatments, plus exercises, plus stretching, and still every long run has been setting me back for a week. Run 10 miles one day…have trouble walking the next. It’s been a strange game…and I’ve been fairly pig-headed about that. I guess I’ve never really learned the meaning of an “off day”!

Still, I can’t say it enough – September is a racing month. September is a running month. September is a training month. Even though Academy life can get wearing by winter, in these first few months of school, energy levels stay high all throughout the corps. And with so many exciting things going on, with MMA Weekend, and Labor Day, and Homecoming Weekend, the energy seeps over to fuel your workouts. It’s easy to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” when there’s something going on every week – because basically each week is a new “tunnel” to conquer.

Enough history. Let’s get into the meat of this story: RACES!

On September 10th, 2011 I hopped in a van loaded down with a dozen-odd cadets, their bikes, helmets, gear bags, and endless high-carb snacks to head down to Washington D.C. for what was many of our first Olympic Distance Triathlon. This is the amazing thing about the Academy – you take trips like this, and all the details are worked out perfectly…transportation, lodging, meal money. We got from Connecticut to D.C. in a day, hassle free. After racking bikes, checking in, and getting a quick meal, we all crashed at Station Washington for some much needed rest. The next morning, the Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, at 7a.m., the starting gun fired, and our team of Coasties was off running to their bikes.

It was strange and surreal – dashing through the mud of the transition area on a misty morning in the Capital, racing against a hundred other military cadets from other service academies, and thousands of people total. All that adrenaline, all that athleticism centered in one place…yet it was hard to feel the urge to compete, exactly. All I could think of the entire race was, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here right now!” or “Could they have picked a more amazing place to hold a tri?” The significance of the day was certainly not lost on any of us. To think – ten years ago, our nation endured monstrous acts of violence intended to uproot us, ruin us, and shake the very foundations of our strength and resolve. Yet today, we still stand strong. The athletes racing that day are a testimony that the strength and willpower our citizens – September 11th, with the Nation’s Tri, did not have to be a day of mourning but a day to celebrate the enduring passion, commitment, and community that no external foe can take away from the American people. I don’t know – perhaps it was just “runner’s high,” but I left that race with not just excitement, but a deep sense of contentment.

The period after Nation’s Tri ended up being a bit more of a slog, in terms of training. The Olympic Tri hurt me pretty badly – I was starting to get a bit more diligent about taking care of stress injuries, but regardless, a 40K bike and 10K run will set you back a bit, if you’re still supposed to be healing. Oh well – it was so worth it!

Two weeks later I ran the Niantic Half Marathon with the Running Club. Early on a Sunday morning, I hopped in a 15-passenger van with just one other cadet (great organizational skill there, Running Club!) and popped on over to Niantic for the longest straight-up road race I’d ever done. I knew my legs would punish me for it – 13.1 miles all at once would probably mean an extra two or three PT sessions – but I couldn’t beat that undying compulsion to run. And run I did – I finished in 1:47:20, which bodes well for my goal pace for MCM (just to finish in under 4:00:00). I can’t say it was a wildly inspiring a race as Nation’s Tri, but it was a good race nonetheless.

You’d think a Half Marathon and an Olympic Tri would be enough, right? Wrong! My unexpectedly rapid recovery time after Niantic and the fact that all my endless stress injuries finally seem to be subsiding, has me all fired up and ready for more. The Tri Team has been great about welcoming me in mid-season – so I went ahead and signed up for the Mighty Man Sprint Tri in Montauk, New York on October 1st. Bring on the next race!

More than anything, I really look forward to bonding with my new sports-team-family, the “tri-crazies.” It’s a motley crew, but a good crew. In some ways, I think the Tri Team represents the essence of what Academy cadets are – outgoing, energetic, adventurous, ambitious, supportive. We do insane things, like wake up to go jump in a lake at 0640 in October and race, and we love it. We train like fiends, and we love it. We go amazing places on short notice, because the Academy enables it. We’re always on the go, always looking forward, but always, always feeling the heat of every moment of every race. It’s an exhilarating lifestyle – and I’m incredibly grateful that, here at CGA, it’s readily available to me.

More about Jessie.