Traveling to different competitions around the country is probably one of the most glamorized aspects of being a collegiate athlete, and to be sure travel possesses a fair amount of fantastic and super cool elements.
First, there is the simple fact that another organization is paying for you to stay in a hotel, fly in a plane, buy your meals from restaurants of your choice (usually), or receive inordinate amounts of free Gatorade products. There is an inherently awesome feeling that stems from walking in a giant gang with your team through an airport, all sporting your school’s gear and looking in general way more badass than you realistically are. Strutting around with the newly acquired meal money stuffing our wallets, it’s pretty cool to have random people ask you what school you’re from (even though your school’s name is plastered all over your person so really I just end up wondering if the asker is literate) and where you’re going and what events you run. People are very sweet with their well wishes and good luck that they inevitably extend to you following the conclusion of your brief chat.
The usual suppressed atmosphere I often encounter on planes is greatly improved by traveling with your thirty-five other teammates, and usually provides excellent opportunities for catching said teammates sleeping with their mouths open and taking fabulous photos of them.
Coming from a family of seven that approaches travel with a frugality that borders on an artform, craftily squeezing as many persons as possible into one room, stacking siblings in beds, and opting for picnics in parks instead of restaurants, traveling with my team was at first quite odd feeling. We stay in what I consider to be rather upscale hotels, go out to most meals at restaurants with our stacks of twenties, and I sleep in a bed all to myself.
Parents, when you read this, please know I love how we travel, and for all future adventures I look forward to our thrifty ways with genuine anticipation and joy. Amanda’s weird sleeping faces in the morning are worth sharing a bed with her.
But, I also do enjoy the plushy amenities I experience with the team. Although, occasionally the hotels we check into are a tad too nice, and then we don’t get free complimentary breakfast, thus resulting in less leftover meal money for us to keep at the trip’s end.
However, rarely mentioned or experienced until personally undergone are the more tiresome sides of travel. For example, there’s a lot of hotel time. Sure, we get to travel around the country and I’ve gotten to go to places including New York, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, California, Illinois, a lotttt of Arkansas, and currently Connecticut, but we don’t get to really look around those places. I spent four days in the Los Angeles area of California and spent the greater portion of that time in my hotel room. It’s not really something that can be avoided though; when you travel to race, walking around sightseeing is generally detrimental to your performance, and since you’re there to perform, not explore, voluntary hotel confinement is usually chosen. Currently, I sit in my lovely Marriott room awaiting 4 p.m., at which time I will board a bus to shuttle me and fellow teammates over to the University of Connecticut, where I will be running the 10k at 6:30. I have four more hours to contemplate the joys that await me during the 25 laps I have the utter privilege to race tonight.
It’s not terrible, I keep myself busy writing, reading, and watching episodes of Chopped and Grey’s Anatomy.
Another travel characteristic that I have found to be quite taxing is the sheer exhaustion that arises from it. It’s a little mystifying how trips with so much hotel time can be so tiring, although if I were to wager a guess I’d say it arises from higher levels of cortisol coursing through our bloodstream due to the chronically elevated levels of stress we experience during multiple day meets. I’m thrilled to be here, extremely excited, and looking forward to competition, but I am also quite nervous and will be for the duration of the next four days until my races are completed which buts a bit of a stress load on my body. Come to think of it, that stress load is probably also the cause of the insatiable appetite that also plagues me on these trips. Regardless, coming home to my Tulsa apartment after traveling was always an utter relief. I stumble in having been mentally and physically taxed to the limit during the past few days, and my familiar room is quite comforting.
Right now, I’ve finished finals and summer has gently settled over almost all facets of my life besides running. I don’t have any assignment to worry about, papers to finish, or tests to cram for. However, during the school year travel can add difficulty to one’s course load. My school excels at aiding its student athletes with juggling academics and athletics, but it can’t get around the fact that time is drained from a students schedule by their athletic obligations, and the weeks preceding and following a trip for competition are often the most difficult we experience all year.
Despite any of these cons, traveling truly is a fantastic part of being a student athlete. I have been to many places already that I never would have had the opportunity to visit without my school, and in addition, as a runner, I have been able to explore (in a limited way) sections of these places on my own two feet (one of the greatest perks of running is its versatility and universality, but that’s a separate topic unto itself). On top of everything, flitting around the country with a group of people who qualify as your extended family is just a lot of fun, because they’re fantastic folks.
Alright, now just three hours and fifty minutes to go til that 10,000…