The Olympic Trials
Jun 21, 2012
"It's not going to turn out the way you thought it would. It will be better." - Kate Moller
I'm a big quote person. I've collected inspirational quotes and tidbits since high school. I'm also big on collaging inspiration on my walls - rarely are my bedroom walls blank. This year, the Olympic year, I've been searching for different kinds of inspiration because this year is such a new experience for me.
I'm not in college anymore and I don't have the luxuries of a college athlete experience. I'm not a seasoned pro yet either; my coach loves to remind me that I'm actually quite young in the system and that I have a lot more growing to do before I've reached my peak as an athlete. I don't have a training group to practice with every day; but I like training one-on-one with my coach. I uprooted my comfy life in Charlottesville for an unknown life in Knoxville, Tennessee. I started training in running gear after spending six years in Nike (longer if you count high school). This year hasn't felt familiar to me at all. In fact, going into the Olympic Trials next week, I'm fluctuating between two feelings: excitement and anxiety.
Anxiety: It is so easy to be anxious and nervous going into this next week. This year hasn't felt at all like years past, for the reasons listed above and for many others. I've been injured before, but this is the first year when I've been feeling kind of "meh" for a majority of my training. We tweaked my steeple form a bit and tried to tap into my hip mobility and that's where it all began. First my hamstrings were tight, then I had massive shin splints, and now it's settled at the very bottom, arch tightness in my foot. Nothing has put me out of running, but feeling banged up and uncomfortable when I run is not a sensation I am used to.
Everyone tells me, "You'll be great! Think of all the hard work you've done over the years!" But that's the thing - what hard work? When I try to think of the "hard work" I've done this year, I come up blank. That's not to say I haven't done any work. I have. And when I really think about it, I certainly can remember grueling workouts in the heat and races and circuits and drills. Oh yes, I've done the work. But this year, I was just running - not going to classes or staying up late with papers or running around Charlottesville doing a million other things. So of course my life has felt "easy" because training is all I'm doing and really, it doesn't take up that much of your time.
And, of course, I fall into that trap of comparing myself to my competitors and to the old me. So often I finish a week or a workout or a race and immediately think back to what I was doing last year. "Well, I ran this time last year, but that was at the NCAA Championships and obviously that's a different atmosphere ..." "Well, I was doing these kinds of workouts last year, but it was at a different pace and it wasn't this hot ..." etc., etc., etc.
I tried to block out race results from my competitors from crossing my radar but, of course, I would end up asking my fiance or friends about certain competitors I had my eye on. I roughly know what times my competitors have run this year; last year, I was clueless about what the pros were running. I can guarantee you the majority of professional steeplechasers ran faster than I did by the time USAs rolled around but look what happened there! At the end of the day, comparing myself to others has proven to be completely pointless. This is a race where anything can happen; anyone can hit a barrier or slip in a water jump or fall apart unexpectedly. And in an Olympic year? Even crazier stuff can happen. So there's no point in having expectations going into the race except to expect the very best from myself.
Excitement: When I'm not feeling anxious (maybe 60 percent of the time?), I'm feeling excited. This is cool! I'm going to race in my very first Olympic Trials. How many people in the country (in the world) can say they can do that? Whatever happens, I have an amazing support system behind me: my fiance is a runner who loves me no matter what; my coach loves me; my family supports me; I have an incredible management team who is dedicated to getting me in the best races and give me the coolest opportunities; I have friends who think I'm superwoman; and I have a sponsor who stands by its athletes, even in their down years. I'm one of the best steeplechasers in the country. I'm not just a newbie looking in. Will I make the team? Who knows. But I have proven to myself that I belong with these girls. I belong in that final, I belong on the start line with the best of the best Americans, I belong on that Olympic Team. I've proven it and that's exciting. I get to prove it again and again and again by racing my guts out and having fun and making it look glamorous.
This is where my inspirational quotes come in. This year, I've looked for quotes that reassure me that no matter what, I'm going to get where I belong. The path might not be at all what I expected but I will get there. I will be whatever and whomever I want to be. This year hasn't turned out the way I expected it to but I guarantee that it will be better.
"Beyond The Lawn" is a 12-month series found exclusively on TheSabre.com that follows three Virginia Cavaliers through a year as a professional athlete. Baseball's Tyler Wilson (Baltimore Orioles), track and field's Stephanie Marie Garcia (U.S. Olympic hopeful), and football's Clint Sintim (New York Giants) share their experiences throughout the year.
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