The daily log of Matt Kusak for Saturday, November 19, 2022

Saturday Night's Alright

Run

: 1.20 Mile(s) : 00:00:00 : : Chrome Leaders : 0.0

Run

: 0.60 Mile(s) : 00:00:00 : : Chrome Leaders : 0.0

Run

: 1.70 Mile(s) : 00:00:00 : : Chrome Leaders : 0.0

Run

: 5.30 Mile(s) : 00:00:00 : : The Dragon's : 0.0

Run

: 0.70 Mile(s) : 00:00:00 : : Chrome Leaders : 0.0

Daily Note

What a race. I really can't believe this was my last cross race ever--throughout the morning I tried hard not to get emotional, or at least not to show it. Got dropped like usual on the shakeout extendo, hotel ran out of plain bagels but I had one from home, and saw the girls finish their race. I'll always remember how the start line looked; especially the snow. Threw on a hat and gloves, heard the roar of the WashU crowd, then waited for what felt like ten years for the gun to go off.
Then it did, and I began the last five miles of my cross country career.
Mile 1. Immediately threw off the hat, it was way too warm. We were pretty far back and there was a lot of shoving in the crowd. At one point Oliver Witt said something about it and I said "Welcome to Nationals". Pack was mostly together at this point, I was right on T-Penn. Felt good.
Mile 2. Just 4 miles left, ever. Nung had moved ahead, and somehow I had gotten just ahead of Jeff. I knew I was our #2, which was higher on the team then I had ever finished at WashU, but I knew today was a day for taking risks so it didn't faze me. Focused on one thing: Keep moving up.
Mile 3. Still felt good, and every time I saw the WashU crowd I surged just a little. There were a few quieter spots, and I distinctly remember Mason calmly saying something like, "4 seconds off Nung". For many college cross races I began listening to a song repeatedly beforehand and then playing it in my head during the race. Today I used the song "Saturday Night's Alright" by Elton John because it's the song that always plays when I envision the dream race.
Mile 4. This is it, the last 2 miles of the race and ever. I kept thinking the lanky runners passing me were Jeff. I knew I had to move, but it was getting hard. The snow was getting deeper, the voice in my head telling me to slow down was getting louder. It told me I was too far back for All-American anyway, that Nung was doing well enough without me, that the wind in my face was a reason to slow down. The words of wisdom from Colin Yandel rang in my ears, "Talk to yourself, don't listen to yourself". I looked around and saw some North Central runners; I told myself to pass their asses.
Mile 5. Just one to go but I was losing mental strength and falling back. I kept looking around for the WashU crowd but saw no one. Couldn't even see Nung in the front. Then, when all seemed lost, a lanky runner passed me and said something completely unintelligible. Jeff. He surged ahead and I knew I had to fight too. Felt like everyone was sprinting. I saw my watch at ~4.4 miles... Just 800 meters left. I got hit by a wave of exhaustion, but I remembered pushing through those at Queeny so I just kept pushing. But I couldn't find my last burst of energy. I frantically looked around as we went around the final bend--there was Arun and others, screaming at the top of their lungs. I don't think they even said "300" but that was the moment I found the last ounce of strength in my body. I heard Arun's screams above the rest as I saw the final straightaway and had two packs of runners in my sights. I passed both, crossed the finish line, and was already at a walk by the second mat.
I smiled and cried because I knew I gave that race everything. It was worthy of being my last xc race.

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