Cary Academy senior Thomas Graham has been the dominant male cross country runner in our state all year, and he is in San Diego this weekend to cap off his great season with his second visit to Foot Locker Nationals. Thomas agreed to send along some thoughts and memories from his experience, and as a veteran of the event I know he is working hard to balance his enjoyment of all the activities with a serious desire to race well Saturday.
(From the MileSplit national portal)
The first day was a really long one, and it started at 5 AM to make my 6:15 flight. I got to sleep on the plane, though, so when we got to San Diego at noon I was ready to go. They picked us up in groups in charter buses and took us to the Hotel Del, which is unbelievable (http://www.hoteldel.com/ check it out). They herded us all into a huge room full of free stuff, and then we had some time to explore the hotel. Connor Rog, Garret Heath (a pro for Saucony), and I went on the group run together around Coronado Island, and did strides on the beach afterwards. Dinner was great, too, and they had a scavenger hunt of Footlocker trivia stuff/Hotel Del trivia which the South guys ended up winning. All in all, it was an amazing day.
They got us up pretty early this morning for a big breakfast buffet, followed by a bus out to work out on the course at Balboa Park. It's always interesting to see what's different about a course year to year, but it was almost exactly as I remember it. It was pretty funny to hear the first year people's reactions at the hill, which I'm sure they'll have a lot more respect for after tomorrow, if not the first time, then definitely the second time they go up it. The afternoon was pretty free, so after lunch, which included a magician who's been coming to Nationals for years now (sounds lame, but is actually insane), I got in a nap on the beach and kicked back to watch a movie with some of the other guys. Dinner was another amazing meal coupled with a panel of professionals who had run at Footlocker in the past who shared some of their stories and led a Q&A session. Now, it's time to head to bed for what will hopefully be a long but awesome day tomorrow.
Today was one of the best days of my life without a doubt. It was tense early this morning when everyone was nervous at breakfast, but once we got to the course things started to lighten up a little bit and I even managed to enjoy the pre-race intro and lead up a little bit. The girls' race was awesome; I legitimately got a little teary at Erin Finn's race. She's a beast. My race was one of my best ever, too. I got out well and ran most of the race in 3rd place, then got eaten up a little bit in the last stretch and finished 9th, but I was really happy with it. My goal was single digits and I just managed to hang onto it, and got some nice camera time in the process. Shout out to the South guys' team for winning the South's first national team title in 33 years of footlocker. Everyone killed it.
After the race, it was like a huge weight was off all of our shoulders, and the whole afternoon was paradise. We hung out around the hotel, in the hot tub, on the beach, and generally just blew off steam from a long season. You can eat anywhere on the island free courtesy of Footlocker, so we all took advantage of that bigtime. In the evening was the banquet where they played a slideshow of pictures from the morning's race and gave out awards. The night was pretty crazy, and definitely one I'll remember for a long, long time. Thanks so much to everyone who supported me and allowed me to have this amazing experience.