Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Picture of the Week: Daddy's Girl

Today is just one of those days that I miss my dad. So much. It's not a holiday, or a birthday, or any other significant day in my life that is sure to bring forth overwhelming emotions. It's simply Tuesday. Sometimes it doesn't take anything out of the ordinary for you to remember all the things that made someone extraordinary and have you truly wish you could have just one more day to spend with them.

I was looking at pictures of my dad and the above one made me smile. My dad was oh so cool, and it seems as if I have followed in his footsteps. I knew there was a reason I loved my tube socks so much. I got my inspiration years ago and it obviously stuck with me. I just wish he was around to see his trend come full circle.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Home Sweet...Home?

Just one week ago, I traveled for 23 hours, on 4 flights, all the way from Greece to California, so that I could sleep in my own bed and start the wonderful process of rest and recovery. After a jam-packed summer full of ups and downs, there is nothing I looked forward to more than finally coming home. No more living out of a over packed suitcase, no more horse meet for dinner, and no more forcing my body to give me one more decent performance when it clearly was trying to tell me it was tired.

So why am I getting on a plane today to fly all the way to South Korea? Well the short answer is greediness. Sometimes it’s hard to just leave money on the table, especially when every extra dollar seems to go towards things I really need…like food, a roof over my head, etc. I can stay home and just say I’m tired and I’ve had a long season, but 6 months from now when I’m forced to eat Top Ramen for dinner, I would really kick myself for such a short-sighted decision. We’ve all read about how I got royally screwed on what I thought would be my last meet and lost out on a good bit of money, so anything I do to earn a few pennies of that money I thought I would have back, is probably a smart decision. But I assure you, this will definitely be the last one. That’s because there are absolutely no more meets anywhere on the planet, thank God. My body and my mind are more than ready for that rest and relaxation.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Spare Change and a Big Lesson

My favorite way to spend time is outside a coffee shop, with a delicious cappuccino, a good book, and some sunshine. This is my ideal me time, and the less interruptions, the better. In fact, I’m known to even put my Blackberry away, with the ringer turned off no less. Yesterday morning was the perfect sunny day in San Diego and I had settled down with my book in front of the most perfect coffee shop. (well, the closest I could find outside of Italy at least.) I was happy. I was content. I was looking forward to losing myself in the pages of the one John Grisham thriller I have somehow seemed to miss in my 3458 trips to the airport bookstore. Which is why I was probably less thrilled than normal when a man perched himself on a chair the next table over and proceeded to interrupt my perfect morning.

He started off by telling me how beautiful I was and I graciously thanked him and then quickly diverted my eyes back to my book. But I knew he wasn’t done and in my head I was expecting the next question that followed.

“Could you spare some money so that I could get something to eat?

He was homeless. San Diego has an extremely large population of homeless and any time you are in the downtown vicinity you will surely be asked on numerous occasions for any change you can spare. I have no set rule on whether or not I fork something over…sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. But this was my time, and the last thing I wanted to be was bothered. So I smiled politely and said I didn’t have any cash, just credit cards on me.

“Do you think you could buy me some food with your credit card?

I smiled politely again. “Sorry…”. And again I tried to look back down at my book. I didn’t bother to finish the sentence. Obviously I could buy food with my credit card, I just wasn’t going to. I had barely been sitting there for 10 minutes. My coffee was still hot, I was just getting into my book, and my relaxing morning was not going to be interrupted. Truth be told, I had cash. But I use this line the same way I eagerly throw out that I have a boyfriend. It’s not quite the truth, it just makes the interaction a little less painful for both of us.

He looked me in the eye and sighed, thanked me, and then got up and walked away. A few minutes passed and my eyes started to well up. He wanted food for goodness sakes. Lord knows I don’t have much, but I am beyond capable of buying somebody lunch. But I continued to sit there, tried to loose myself in the pages of my legal thriller, and failed miserably. After about 15 minutes had passed, I gathered up my stuff and set out in the direction I thought he had gone.

I found him about 4 blocks away, still unsuccessful in finding himself lunch to eat. I tapped him on the shoulder and said hello, and from his reaction I’m not even sure he remembered he had just talked to me or just thought it was cool someone was making conversation. He didn’t bring up money at all, he just started chatting about random stuff… the fact that he was from Detroit (had I ever been there and what did I think of it), his father and brothers who have a lot of money (did I have siblings), that he can ride the bus all over town for free (I saw the card)…just on and on. After about 10 minutes I said I had to get going and asked if he was still wanted something to eat.

Yea, I am hungry.

I quickly handed over the cash I did have so that he could buy what he wanted, and wished him a good day. Before I left though, he wanted to give me something in return. It was a purple and yellow key holder you wear around your neck from the local bail bondsman and while I tried to say it was ok and I didn’t need anything, he wouldn’t take it back. He assured me he could get more. I hurried away before the tears started overflowing.

I am blessed. Blessed to have a roof over my head, food always in my cupboard, and friends and family who care enough to ensure that I don’t ever have to beg someone for a meal. Not everyone does. People bless me all the time for no other reason than it was put on their heart to do so. I am thankful beyond belief and constantly feel like my thank you’s don’t do much in the way of showing my gratitude. But I was reminded that what is also important is to make sure you bless others. And while I certainly can’t empty my wallet every time a homeless person in San Diego asks for money, I believe this particular man was there to give me something. What I received from our interaction will last far beyond that afternoon. Even the tacky keychain, that is capable of holding the key to my apartment, my car key, and the storage area with all my extra stuff, is a reminder that I am blessed to have keys of things that belong to me. That is what's important.

(I am not necessarily proud in recounting how I reacted to this man at first and how I treated him, but I thought the lesson it showed me was important and so I shared anyway.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Being a Girl Sucks

I’m an independent woman for the most part. Beyonce was totally singing about me when she sang for all her Independent gals to throw your hands up at me. I can do pretty much anything on my own…anything except kill bugs and fix cars. Which is why I am totally frustrated and helpless now that my car is sitting down in the garage totally dead. Yesterday, when I found it that way after over two months of sitting idle, (probably not smart, I know) I had plenty of help around to get me back on my way. I found someone with cables, someone to hook them up, and someone to open my hood and be the first to encounter the rabbits who had taken up residence. But that was yesterday.

Today, I again have a dead car and nobody around to help. I am far away from friends, I didn’t pass a helpful looking soul that wasn’t rushing out to the office, and I can’t locate my insurance card to see if I even have roadside assistance. I guess I’m supposed to buy a battery but who knows if you are forced to install it yourself. That would sure be scary and pretty much impossible so I’m sure they have someone who does it for you. But first comes the problem of finding someone to start my car so I can get to some sort of place that does that.

In the meantime, I’m just sitting here pouting. This is yet another reason why I really need to speed up the search for a husband because I’d prefer for this to be someone else’s problem. Oh…and did I mention I had to kill a bug this morning with nothing but a paper towel?! Sheer madness.


People keep asking me what ended up happening with my car…so I suppose I’ll finish the story.

First, let me start with the moral of the story: Listen to your instinct.

I would never attempt anything grander than putting gas in my own car. But thanks to some well-intentioned friends and strangers who convinced me of the problem… and the obvious simplicity of how to fix it… I tried to be superwoman. Changing your own battery is easy!”, they claimed. So off I went to Wal-Mart to purchase a new battery. This is where the story takes an unpromising turn. I could just blame it on the Wal-Mart employee but maybe it was my bad for assuming he was an auto expert and chose to work at Wal-Mart for the unbelievable benefits. Long story short…I bought the battery, relied on the expertise of my girlfriend who had saw someone put in her battery months earlier and swore it was a piece of cake, and ended up with a car that wouldn’t spit, sputter, or click if it’s life depended on it. So, I have it towed, and then wait almost 24 hours for them to tell me that the problem was a blown fuse, caused by the purchase of the wrong type of battery that made this one part touch this other part that it wasn’t supposed to. Their “expertise” cost me the big bucks and the silly little fuse was only $12 dollars.

So yes, it was my battery, but no, a person like me should not try and pretend they’re someone they’re not. When it comes to cars, DIY might as well stand for screw it up and pay even more.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A lot of Lemons

Ask any athlete, and they will tell you that the most important meet after the Championships is the World Athletic Final. You make it into this meet by competing all year long at the highest tiered meets and earning points based on your finish. By the end of the year, 8 people are awarded entry into the meet…the first 7 are guaranteed their spot, and the 8th can be a wildcard if they (meet promoter) so choose and have a good reason to not just take the 8th place finisher. I struggled a little towards the latter part of my season, but thanks to my early competing on 6 different continents, I still was able to secure 7th place. Well, actually I tied for 7th place when it was all said and done. But how you get here doesn’t really matter because once you’re here, it’s anybody’s ball game. And I truly needed for it to be my day to play ball. This meet pays well and everybody makes money…better than any other meet I could possibly go to and I need that more than anything when I am about to cease making money until next season rolls around. I have no guaranteed base salary, I finished 9th when they pay top 8 at World Championships, and my bank account is in some serious need of a little security. I don’t do this for the money (obviously), but I can’t survive without it either.

Which is why I almost did a low scale freak out when I found out yesterday, the day I was flying to Greece, that I wasn’t on the start list. I have planned for this meet all year long, adjusted my schedule and competed all over the world so that I could give myself the best opportunity to make it here, and now, 48 hours before I’m supposed to compete, I’m told I might as well be flying home. Meets are fickle, that’s just part of the business, but this meet is supposed to purely be based on your performance throughout the year, and by performing well you are rewarded with the opportunity to end your season with a bang. But instead, my season will now end with a whimper, and a fairly broke whimper at that. Somehow they found a way to take the other top 7, leave me out, and use the wildcard on the girl in 9th, a well-deserving silver medalist and one of the top jumpers in the world for many years. Still…it’s not my fault she wasn’t top 8.

I try very hard not to complain because at the end of the day, I know I’m still blessed. But for so long I’ve been waiting to feel like I’ve made it far enough so that it seems like I’m not gasping for air, barely able to hold my head above water. But yet, here I am at the end of the season…without a coach, without a contract, and without this last big meet to try and make next year just a little bit more comfortable. I know it doesn’t overshadow all the bright spots, but right now the immediate future looks a little bleak. No matter what I do, I seem to be a day late and a dollar short. But sometimes that’s life, right? You just have to constantly find new ways to make lemonade.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Jumper who Sprints

For my whole track and field career, I have never done just one event. As I got older, I specialized a little…slowly fading out the triple jump once I got to college, no taking the 200 seriously once I was a pro…but I have remained both a sprinter and a jumper regardless. This is what feels right to me, and even though people have told me otherwise, I have never made the decision to fully specialize in just one event. I can’t tell you my favorite, merely that I prefer whichever event is yielding better results at the time. I’d like to be great at both, and in doing so I would appreciate the different ways of being a competitor they both offer.

But I will say this…for most of my career I would definitely describe myself as a sprinter who jumps…until now. Now, I have become a jumper who sprints. And there is a difference—most notably that it has made me into a very sub par sprinter. I made a decision early on this season to put sprinting on the backburner and focus on the long jump. That basically meant that I would prepare as best as possible for Nationals to be a Long Jumper, and my competitions would be jumping instead of sprinting or doing both. My workouts didn’t change drastically but there were subtle differences. Basically, my plan worked and I got what I wanted. And I was still fast…I’m pretty sure I am faster on the runway then I have ever been and definitely the fastest jumper in the World from the data I’ve seen.

But after my last couple attempts at actually trying to run a race this past week, I’ve realized that being solely in Long Jump mode has made me lose my ability to truly sprint. It is frustrating to say the least. I cannot come out of blocks, my turnover seems stuck on my runway pace, and a whole 100 meters seems sooooo long! I know that there must be a way to be good at both. There have been athletes who are great examples of that… most notably King Carl, but that's not to say it's easy. Perhaps the formula is different for every person but for me, it seems that being a jumper who sprints instead of a sprinter who jumps is not going to cut it.

It’s not that I’m greedy. I realize being good at one event is more than many can even hope for. I have so much room to be a better jumper that some might think it’s crazy for me not to just focus on that. But in my infinite wisdom there are a few things I’ve realized. For starters, you can make money being a sprinter that you can never make by doing the long jump. This is my job, after all. And secondly, if at all possible, you should stick as close to possible to what makes you happy and doing what you love. I happen to love both. If there is a way for me to figure out how to be successful at both simultaneously then I’m going to give it my best shot.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


It’s been two months…two whole months of living out of one suitcase. That’s hard for any normal person to work with such a limited wardrobe, but as an athlete I sweat and roll around in sand in half those clothes so the opportunity to reuse that stuff is impossible. In fact, the laundry bag I keep all those clothes in is lethal. I feel sorry for any unsuspecting airport worker who goes rifling through my bag on a random check. Needless to say I must do laundry every so often. And that’s not always so easy. Finding an actual Laundromat is a goldmine. The opportunity to wash all your clothes at the same time with real detergent seems like one of life’s major blessings. But in the short amount of time we usually stay in a city, that isn’t always an option. So far this summer, here have been some of my alternative options…

*In Germany I stayed in an apartment that had a washer/dryer but with German instructions and no interpreter. Nobody could figure out how to get the thing to work properly and once you put your clothes in the dryer it would stop every 6 minutes or so and start beeping. The smell in the basement prevented you from actually staying down there while your clothes washed, so I would go down 3 flights of stairs about 7 or 8 times during a cycle to re-start it. The day before I left, the neighbor finally told me the simple problem and how to fix it.

*In Berlin I took two trains across town to use the Laundromat but was an idiot and all my whites came out with a blue tint. So the next day I trekked back with a bottle of bleach to try and salvage them. Some are passable.

*I was getting ready for a meet a few weeks ago and realized I had no more undies. So I quickly washed a pair in the sink and dryed them with a blowdryer while I brushed my teeth and finished getting ready.

*Speaking of washing in the sink…I do that often. If you have detergent...good for you. If not, regular soap or shampoo (anything in the soap family), will do. The point here is to try and get them clean enough. It also works best if you can set the stuff outside to dry. It will be a little crispy but that’s ok. Although I have had a few items blow away, so it’s best to secure them if possible.

*My last stop in Italy I was determined to do a good washing because I was pretty much out of everything. I finally set out with sketchy directions and a map from the front desk. I walked in the blistering heat, made a few wrong turns, asked directions from a multitude of people who spoke no English, and finally found what I was looking for: the Laverderia (Italian for Laundromat). It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the place was of course closed for siesta. So I left and came back at 5. I thought I was being sent to the Laundromat but this was in fact the Drycleaner. At this point I was desperate but she would not help me. She said a lot of stuff…I understood none of it. But she wouldn’t take my clothes so it meant no. I ended up paying the hotel to wash 3 things for about 20 bucks.

Right now I can make it another 2 days before I must deal with this problem again. I’m not going to bother with Italy today because it’s Sunday, and if you aren’t aware, Italians do nothing on Sunday and everything is closed. This seems a bit excessive seeing as how they already close down 3 hours a day, but maybe that’s just me. So wish me luck in Paris. If anyone knows the French word for Laundromat please pass it

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Other Circuit

In Europe, all meets are not equal. There are the big dogs, all the way down to the little Chihuahua’s. You will find most of your big meets in large cities…Brussels, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin…all those places you’ve marked on your map and hoped to visit one day. And then there are the cities you may have never heard of in your life. Lovely cities, mind you, just not the ones on everyone’s tourist radar. Usually the smaller meets are there. You fly into Venice then drive 2 ½ hours to Rovereto. Your plan lands in Berlin, but you are headed to some small town in Poland some 3 hours away. These places are what some of us athletes lovingly call the chitlin' circuit. I’m not sure where the name originated, but it seems to fit. They aren't the big meets, with all the glitz and glamour and big sponsors, but oftentimes you take what you can get and you make the best out of it--sorta like chitlins. :)

Some athletes go there because that’s all they can get into. There are a lot of athletes and only 8 lanes on a track. Golden League meets and Super Grand Prix meets are tough when you aren’t top in the world. Some athletes go in between big meets because going to a small meet is still better than housing and feeding yourself in between competitions. Other athletes have realized that it’s easier to make more money coming in first at a small meet than sixth at a Golden League meet. And still other athletes, especially field event athletes, have no choice when the meets that have their events are few and far between. One of the above reasons, or some combination, brings most athletes to a meet in a place that they can’t find on a map at least a few times a season. I’m at that time in my season now.

There are probably not many meets on the European circuit I haven’t been to. Thanks to my age and my rollercoaster of a career, I have pretty much seen and been to them all. Being here now is much more enjoyable because I understand their purpose and I can reap the benefits. Sure, my friends and colleagues might be on Eurosport this weekend, but I had no desire to test out how fast I was at this point of the season in front of millions of people. (and THANK GOD I didn’t.) I’ll trade the 4 star hotel for the ability to plop myself down in a quaint cafĂ© and drink a cappuccino for 1 euro. Like I said, there are no tourists in these places! And most of all, I can relax because the stress level just isn’t the same. I’m still trying to figure out how to recharge my battery and unfortunately the body is taking its sweet time with that one.

I’ll be back for the grand finale in a couple weeks and there will be no hiding at that meet. Until then, cut me some slack if you happen to uncover any meet results during this time. The internet does a good job finding out stuff even when a GPS can’t locate you.

P.S. I've never had chitlins in my life...but I wonder if they taste better than horse. Anybody know???

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I am a proud carnivore. I prefer to eat meat at every single meal if possible because the meal just doesn’t seem complete without it. Traveling through Europe can pose some difficult problems at times in regards to eating the way you are used to because people always have a different take on what normal is. I don’t like baked beans for breakfast, I prefer my fish without the eye looking up at me, and I believe there are just some animals that should be for pet and recreational use only.

Coming to Italy is usually a safe bet for good meals that will be enjoyable. You will always get your choice of pasta followed by your choice of meat and you will end up satisfied because if they do one thing well in Italy, it’s eat. These people know what’s important in life and they indulge to the fullest.

Which is why I felt no trepidation when, after finishing off my plate of tortellini, I was brought a piece of meat with some veggies on the side. I had asked for the pork option (as they offered me that or fish), and while I knew the meat sitting in front of me didn’t look like the other white meat, I felt no reason to worry. It looked like beef. They probably just ran out of the pork. So I took a bite. “Funny tasting beef,” I thought. And the aftertaste stuck with you. It definitely tasted different than beef. I never have worked as a food critic so I feel unable to describe it properly, but there was some sort of natural spice that lingered in you mouth...a muskiness almost. It most certainly DID NOT taste like chicken. After a few more bites my friend sitting across from me mentioned the same thing. It was obvious that we hadn’t gotten pork, but we voiced aloud whether this was beef. Perhaps it was veal, we concluded. I don’t ever really order veal but I know it’s in the same family and all so maybe the difference of not being a fully-grown cow is what I was tasting. I then tried to remember what I had seen when I glanced over the regular menu to see if it could possibly anything else. I remembered seeing deer, so I threw that out as an option. I wasn’t too keen on eating Bambi, but I felt like it wouldn’t be the end of the world. People do eat deer in America, though it’s a more obscure choice of protein. We all agreed that eating deer wouldn’t be so bad.

I finished my plate, as did the two friends that were with me. In other countries you don’t send dishes back like we do so freely in the U.S. and if they end up sending out the wrong dish it’s more of a hassle to try and explain that to the waiter who barely speaks English as it is, then to just eat whatever they bring you, and besides, they don’t really check back to ask how your meal is anyway. On the way out though, I stopped our waitress and did my best charades impression to try and ask what our meat was. After a moment of not understanding she finally gets what I’m asking her. Ahhh… it is horse. I just smiled politely and walked away.