My name is Hannah Valenzuela. I am a distance runner from Apple Valley, California, where I am a senior at Apple Valley High School. I have been given the great privilege of being asked by milesplit to write about my experiences in Punta Umbria, Spain for the World Cross Country Championships.
First off, let me give you a little background about myself. Before I discovered my great love for running, I basically experimented with every other activity that you could think of. From ballet to basketball to piano to soccer, I did it all….seriously!! Although these activities were all fun, none were completely thrilling to me.
When I was in the sixth grade, my parents got me involved with the Southern California Roadrunners distance running club. We had some friends that were involved with it, and they really encouraged us to become a part of the group. Let me tell you, I did not enjoy running at all at first!!!...no joke! I just didn’t see the point of it and I can remember wondering what it was people were running from. I can recall a shy little girl running in the back of the pack of Roadrunners during practices, and walking up the Switchbacks at Mt. Sac during races. My coach, Dr. Michael Leong and my parents saw some potential in me so they encouraged me to stick with it for just a little while longer. It was when I started to win some races that I enjoyed the thrill of running. I loved and still do love the feeling of setting a goal and working hard to achieve it…it’s just the greatest isn’t it?(; Two years later, my attitude towards running completely changed from when I was first introduced to it. I no longer had to be dragged out of the house when it was time for practice, and my excuses to why I shouldn’t run turned into excuses to why I should run.
When I entered high school, I was extremely motivated to train as hard as I could so that I could be the best runner that I could possibly be. I’m one determined girl. (: It didn’t matter if it was doing one more hill repeat, one more push up or getting an extra hour of sleep; if I thought it might make me a better runner then I would do it. Starting my freshman year, I began waking up at 3:30 AM so that I could run before school. I know, I know…that’s crazy right?! My mom would patiently drive behind me and shine the car’s lights so that I could see where I was going. People thought I had gone mad. Many times as I was running, the few people that were out at the time would roll down their window as they passed me and ask questions like, “what are running from little girl” and “are you ok?!” Once, a cop actually stopped me and asked what I was doing out so early and what the heck I was thinking.
My hard work and determination has definitely paid off over the years. I have earned titles of All American, National Champion, All CIF, All State and have qualified for a total of three US teams. I am extremely blessed and I owe all of my success to my amazingly supportive family and friends, and my one-of-a kind coaches, Michael Dunne and Dr. Michael Leong.
In preparation for the USA XC Championships that were held at Mission Bay Park in San Diego, California; Coach Dunne, my coach from my club team, South Coast XC Elite, put together a well thought out two month training program for me to follow after my senior cross season ended. I must say that following a training program is a lot harder than it seems when your only training partner is your handy dandy Garmin GPS watch!!! It was even more difficult with the miserable wind, rain and snow that winter brought to Apple Valley this year. However, I braved the nasty conditions and continued to train hard. My motivation was the prospect of being able to compete in foreign soil in Punta Umbria, Spain!!
When it came to the race, we put together the perfect race plan, and guess what I did? I don’t mean to brag, but I executed it exactly!! I ran conservatively with my teammate and dear friend Catrina McAlister for the first half of the race, and kept moving up in position throughout the second half. I finished the race with a great finishing kick, and most definitely ran the race of my life. I can’t even describe how thrilled I was and still am for earning the last spot to be on the US Junior Women’s cross team to go to Spain!
Punta Umbria here I come!!!!
Well Milesplit, gotta run! Until next time….