The Olympic Year
On the outside of the bubble it is a year to celebrate the world’s best athletes coming together to showcase their athletic prowess. Countries have set up standards, marks, and performances that set the criteria for electing which athletes get the chance to represent their country. The USA T&F Olympic Trials are this week in Eugene, OR covering a 10 day spectacle of America’s best track and field athletes vying for a spot on the US Olympic Team. Hundreds will compete, but only 3 from each event will go.
Here’s the thing too. Not all of the nation’s best will be competing at the trials. There will be some who could have been legitimate contenders to make the team, that are sitting on their couch watching. Various reasons left them out the trials: they didn’t achieve a qualifying time, they suffered an injury, their iron levels were low, they had a mental lapse this season and couldn’t get their mind right to run times they once have. These reasons happen because when the media and the news start ringing in the Olympic Year, athletes feel the pressure. There is more spotlight, more emphasis on perfection, more sacrifice, more dreaming, more failure. We all get caught up in it at some point throughout the year and it’s sad. It’s sad because as a pro runner many of our ultimate goals’ is to become an Olympian, to hear our country’s anthem, to represent the red, white, and blue. Doing so in America is one of the hardest feats in our sport. It means achieving the Olympic Standard at some point in the time window, not being too fit too early in the season, staying healthy, not overtraining, and being top 3 on one day, of one year, of one decade, in your athletic career. You know the date of your race months ahead of time and you can only hope you don’t wake up that morning with a cold, that your mind is right, and that you timed the training and the peaking just right. Hope.
The stories that are not told on the Olympic year are the ones I mentioned at home on the couches. For those of you out there, don’t give up. I know some of you well and my heart is with you. There is more to a professional running career than the Olympic trials and Olympics. Take the time to remember why you started running and what keeps you running. Share your injured or difficult stories with the fans. People wanna know what happened. Don’t be afraid sponsors will cut you because you got hurt. We all train on the edge in order to become the best version of yourself. You are either on the brink of a breakthrough or the brink of an injury. Now sponsors, don’t cut your athletes because they got hurt or didn’t make the team. Before you are signed or sign, both parties should find what makes that athlete valuable and work on those things even through injuries and when you’re not competing. Athletes, connect with our sport and the fans and show your sponsor you have value outside of the stopwatch. The Olympic year can overshadow even the best of athletes who didn’t have the opportunity to toe the line. They still have a future, they just need to find their reasons to keep pursuing it.
This Friday night my husband Ben will be racing the men’s 10,000 at 6:15 p.m. It will be his first 10k in a US Championship as he has raced the steeplechase in the last 13 US track champs including 3 Olympic Trials. In 2012 he was 5th. Talk about consistency. This year he ran his first 10k on the track as a pro. The week of, he was sick in bed from a virus the kids had. He gutted out a brave 28:25 and was on the bubble for getting in. In the last 3 weeks I have seen his fitness and confidence(silently) grow. As his wife, training partner, and fan I am excited to see what this guy can accomplish on Friday.
As for me… where to begin? I will race the 10,000m just over 15 hours after Ben on Saturday morning at 11:04 am. I will be a little over 9 month post partum. If you had told me 2 years ago this would be the case I would have been lacking confidence. If you told me this 3 weeks after I gave birth I would have laughed and said no way in hell will I make it. We are given choices in life to which we carve our own path. I chose to pursue a dream 8 months ago and try to be a contender to make the US Olympic Team in the 10,000m. The reality of how the season has gone would point in the direction of not really having a shot. I ran 32:14 April 1st and just sneaked under the Olympic Standard. I am the last women under the mark. I’ve encountered a few setbacks, some post partum related, some trying to run at the highest level related. I was super fit, then working through an injury. I lost time and a little hope. The days that it clicked I was thankful and the days that were a struggle I kept fighting. Regardless of where it all shakes out on July 2nd I have throughly enjoyed the journey to getting here. I am a competitor through and and through but am also the biggest fan of our sport.
I can’t really say with confidence where my fitness and where my body’s strength is at the moment due to the setbacks I had. But I do know have 2 things. I have my mind and my heart. I will be needing those 2 things come Saturday. I can’t begin to thank the people that have been instrumental in getting me to even have a chance to compete at the Olympic Trials. To my sponsors (Oiselle, HOKA, newly, PRO Compression, Picky Bars, my coach Ben, my NAZ Elite teammates, my team of physios (Hypo2 Chiro, John Ball, Stephanie and Shea, my fans, and my family and friends. For those that have followed along and believed, thank you. I hope to not disappoint on Saturday morning. Lastly I am grateful that my 2 sons, not quite old enough at the moment to grasp, but we will tell them that their mom and dad kept chasing their dreams while they were little. That we had to leave them for a few days with grandma so we could go focus on chasing a goal around in circles. That no matter what place we were, we left it all out on the track because when you are given the opportunity you must go and seize it.