I Did Not Make the Olympics
But I did come within 8 one-hundredths of a second of making standard in the 1500m. Was 2nd to my fabulous teammate Andrea in the 5000m at Nationals. And pretty much did all that off no training in 2016 with two injuries that left me sidelined.
Pretty impressive when you step back and think about it. Also considering I still worked as a full-time engineer and was an athlete of a variety of sorts up until 2 years ago. My goal was just to see how much fun I could have. Because really, who sets out about 18 months from an Olympics, with no long-term specificity, and says ‘Yeah, I’m going to qualify for the Olympics.’
I do. I’m sometimes hopelessly optimistic. I love working hard. And you might as well set big, hairy, audacious goals, because they really do show you how much you can achieve.
(This is the negative version of how this blog starts – but we all know I try not to be negative!: It’s true, and really most of you know it. Athletics Canada made their announcement long ago on July 11th. Some of you have asked me via email, messengers, etc. and for the most part, I have not directly responded. Please understand that it feels like you’re asking with judgement – and while these mediums have no tone, they sorta do!)
Mistakes were made; You cannot achieve Mastery Overnight
One of the biggest mistakes I made this year was trying to run the 5000m. And as a responsible athlete I will shoulder some of the blame on this. With so little experience in the 1500m and even less in the 5000m I’m not quite sure why I had in my head that I was going to overnight become a success in the 5000m?
Strangely the 5000m is much like an 800m race; you really need to run it lots to get a feel for it. Like the 800 it really, really hurts at the end, a little bit in the middle, and given the nature of the length of the race, for a lot longer. Unfortunately, unlike an 800m it takes a few more days to recover from it.
Why I thought I could step up and run my 2nd 5000m ever April 1st and qualify for the Olympics?! Seems rather ridiculous in retrospect.
Mistake #2 was running the 5000m again at Payton Jordan. When I did not get into the fast heat, and all those other girls were moved to heat one, I should have switched to the 1500m. I had a great seed-time from the 2015 season, the field looked really good, and Payton Jordan favours the varsity athletes at their meet.
What did I learn? I learned that you do not become an expert at an event in just one season or less than a season. All of the research says you need many hours of deliberate practice, a concept Malcolm Gladwell popularized in Outliers. Lucky for me I’ve had a chance to read even more about Deliberate Practice through research in my PhD. I know for me to become an expert it is always going to be about Deliberate Play – working hard, being cognitively engaged, and having so much fun (#squadgoals!)
In alpine skiing I was totally a ‘feel’ skier. To understand a skill, a tactic, a movement, I had to find the feel. The same is true in with running. I need that feel of when to relax, when to steal other people’s super powers, and when to suffer. By racing both the 1500m and 5000m this year, I compromised both. However, I do know that they will both serve me well in whatever future running I choose to do.
You Cannot Always Predict What is going to Happen
Weeks after Payton Jordan I flew back to California to race at the Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic. Little did I know but the migraine that struck me on Mother’s Day, May 8th, was lingering and ready to wreak havoc. There was no way for me to predict that coming around the last lap, feeling strong and confident, that I was going to collapse and not finish the race.
From that point on I cannot really describe what the pain from the migraines was like. I can tell you that I just felt perpetually weak and tired. At times I felt like my brain wanted to explode. Sometimes even sleep didn’t help. It just overall sucked.
I really cannot thank the care team at St. Michael’s hospital for their help. I was desperate. I would have given up running, maybe anything (ok maybe not coffee) just to not have a headache again. But they kept me running. They got me healthy. And they made sure long-term there was no damage to my nervous system and anything else.
I also couldn’t predict that early on in 2016 I would suffer from Runner’s Knee (ITB Syndrome). Injuries happen in running. You pound your feet, legs, and back, and no matter how soft the surfaces there is some wear and tear on your body. Massage and therapy can help but they can only do so much.
Those that become great are the ones that preserve through injuries. They are the ones that suffer the setbacks and vow to first let things heal and then to keep working hard.
That Big Event in the Southern Hemisphere this August
I would by lying if I said I wasn’t sad and frustrated not to be competing in Rio (hopefully I can say Rio and not get into trouble!). The Olympics is arguably the biggest sporting event in the world. I’m not naive enough to think I am not immune to disappointment.
But I also don’t suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing out). Distinction, I am missing out, but (and the most important part of this but), I am not afraid. I have no fear. I will celebrate my teammates, my friends, my fellow Canadians competing in Brazil. I will celebrate what it means to watch the world come together and compete.
This isn’t the End
This post isn’t for you. I guess it is selfishly for me. I find my blog is a great space for me to write and make sense of what I’m trying to do. I wouldn’t say writing this was cathartic; that process happened long ago! Putting this on paper, yes makes it real, but it also reminds there is so much yet to come.
Paolina Allen, amazing cyclist, great friend, (and the woman who makes my hair look superstar-ish) posted this on Instagram a while ago. I often look at it. Somewhere my spirituality lies with karma and working really, really hard. I won’t say maybe, there are and will be many great things to happen in my life, inside and outside of running.
This is a reminder, just because things don’t go your way you don’t give up. You do not necessarily do the same things again. You reflect. You learn. You listen. You devise a plan, a plan b, and a plan z. You go after what’s important to you in a smart, strategic way.
If mastery takes 10,000 hours, then I’m willing to put that in. (Strava says it’s somewhere in the 500 hours per year, but that is missing a whole lot of stuff, I’d say it’s between 1200 and 1500 hours a year!). Dream. Believe. Achieve. And plan; ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish.’
The list of thank you’s for all of you who helped me to get to this point is quite long. But my Oiselle #HauteVolée and #Volée family, so much bird love. Skechers (particularly Laurent, yeah you) thanks for keeping my feet healthy. My close family and friends; here you thought I might be done! Just kidding. Here is to a lifetime of sport and fun!