Saturday, July 24, 2010

Birthday Suits

Maybe Americans are prudes. Or maybe just I am. Whatever the case, I feel oddly uncomfortable being nude in pretty much any circumstance. I remember when I first started using locker rooms back in high school i'd run to the bathroom and change in a stall so I wouldn't have to undress in front of a bunch of girls my same age who had the same hardware I did. Was anyone interested in seeing me in my training bra? Probably not, but that didn't deter me. As I got older, my modest ways have stayed with me, although not to the same ridiculous degree. I can now change in a locker room but I will still do it with my back turned and in record time.

So imagine the look on my face when I decide to take a visit to the premiere spa in Cologne, Germany for a day of rest and relaxation and they inform me that in certain areas bathing suits are forbidden. Ok, so this co-ed spa with parts that are out in the middle of nature does not allow you to cover up your goodies if you so desire? I looked at the receptionist with a bit of a deer in the headlights look and she quickly continued that there were parts of the spa where bathing suits were fine. Well, it was quite obvious to me where I would be spending my afternoon.

Everything was fine, dandy, and modest until we somehow took a wrong turn towards the saunas and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a bunch of penises. My mouth immediately dropped open and my eyes darted upwards like the 12 year old I am and I tried to turn in another direction, but no matter which way I turned I was met with the same view. Naked people (mostly men), in their birthday suits. There was no escaping it and it was quickly becoming obvious that this was to be our experience at the spa. Even when we ventured inside to more whirpools and saunas and tried to pretend we were the unassuming Americans that just "forgot" to remove our suits, we were quickly reprimanded and told we must undress or go back to where they were currently holding the water aerobics class.

So, undress we did. However, I did my best to keep my towel secured and near me at all times. And to be honest, I didn't so much care about the strangers--although it was a bit creepy considering the men to women ratio was not that equal--but moreso my buddies. Why that is weird to me I have no idea. I kept up the charade until I tried to relax in the sauna and quickly realized that there is nothing natural or relaxing about being in a ridiculously hot sauna with a huge towel wrapped around you. I was suffocating and making myself miserable just so I wouldn't have to expose my bum to a stranger that had no problem exposing their bum to me! So off the towel came. Only in the dark sauna of course, but hey, it's a start.

Am I a prude? Would you have felt comfortable bearing it all in the name of relaxation?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Personal Space

I've become very accustomed to dealing with different cultures. I realize that oftentimes the way things are done back home, and expectations that we carry with us, don't always work in other parts of the world. But one thing that still continues to irk me is personal space. Scratch that, the idea of personal space, rather. It just doesn't exist in some places. And try as I might, I just can't get comfortable with people all up in my grill, so to speak. If we are in line, I don't need you breathing down my neck and taking two steps to my every one. If you need to tell me something, it's not going to be better understood the closer you get to my face. In fact, I'm actually finding it very hard to concentrate because I've now stopped the desire to breathe.

Well, this whole issue reached new heights for me on my flight home from Morocco the other day. I was flying Air Maroc, so the assumption that I was going to be in the minority was a done deal. The only plan I had for this flight, however, was to sleep. Not much else mattered. So I really tried to keep my cool during the check-in process as I was cut in front of, had my toe run over by a suitcase, and was yelled at for not taking two steps forward during passport checks. I mean, really?!! Does it matter if I move the two steps now when there is about 87 people still ahead of me? But whatever.

None of those things bothered me as much as my experience once I actually boarded the plane. I had the window--the middle seat was occupied by an older muslim woman. She claimed both arm rests right away. That wouldn't be such a problem normally, but in this particular plane the seats were so close together and space was so limited, that by her claiming the armrest on my side, she also overflowed into my seat. So to compensate, I tried to angle myself sideways. This was the state in which I began what I hoped to be a pleasant 3 hour nap. Apparently not, though. I started my journey by turning off my air conditioning vent so that i would be able to use my sweatshirt as a pillow. Imagine my surprise when I wake up chilly because miss lady next to me has opened my vent back up. Really? You do that here? Isn't that why we all have our own? It's really not my fault you have 10 layers of clothes on and are extra hot on the plane, but apparently I'm supposed to be mindful of that. Not soon after I feel pressure on my leg. The woman is literally trying to force my leg to move with pressure from her leg. So you've taken my arm space and now you want my leg space too?! Fine, you can have it. I close my eyes to continue my nap and not soon after I just get this feeling that something isn't right. I open my eyes and the lady is leaning over me to look out the window. It was as if I wasn't even there! I couldn't believe it. If you wanted a window seat, you should have asked for it like I did.

I'm pretty sure all my muttering under my breath and rolling my eyes didn't do a ton of good. We don't speak the same language, we have different ideas of what's acceptable, and the fact that I couldn't sleep peacefully on my flight meant nothing to her. So I figured I would complain to you, instead. Does anyone else experience this phenomena when traveling abroad?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bouncing Back

My meet in Paris was awful. And by awful I mean every word that the thesaurus could possibly come up with to describe terrible performances. And that’s really all there is to say about it. Usually I like the idea that I have my own little corner of the web to complete untold stories. People look up results all the time and they just see the numbers. But what if I was sick? What if I had an injury? What if the weather was so bad it made my toes numb? At least I give the circumstances that surround my performances and that way those who care to know can come by and get a behind the scenes glimpse at what really took place. But for Paris? I’ve got nothing.

Well…I take that back. It is true that some days you just won’t be on. I mean…it’s true for me at least, because I know some days no matter how mentally and physically prepared I am, I just can’t seem to put it all together. I expect those days to be part of my career, but at this stage I’m a developed enough athlete to have some say in how bad those bad days truly are. They should never be embarrassing. Paris was. I take full responsibility for that and I can’t sit here and give you any good reason for it. I just let my mind get the best of me. I got so worked up about not being in Paris and then I went out there and acted like I didn’t really belong there.

I needed to relax. I needed to just concentrate on jumping far in the sand one jump at a time. Instead, I was focusing on what everyone’s seasons bests were, how many people I would need to beat to make a worthwhile amount of money, and what other unidentifiable Russian had jumped over 7 meters last week. I know better. I’ve learned from those mistakes in the past but it seems I was due for a bit of a refresher course.

There was nothing I could do but lick my wounds and take my empty pockets to Morocco the next day. When you have one day in between competitions you definitely aren’t fixing anything physically. All I really wanted to do was have fun and be a competitor that was competing in the moment. I did that. My jumps were not spectacular—the runways and the bad winds took care of that part—but my competitive spirit was what it needed to be. I know that this is the attitude I need to stay with me through the month of August as I finish out my season.

And while I have you here as a captivating audience, I’d just like to mention that I actually did jump further in Morocco than the results that were posted. I saw the tape with my own eyes and was proud of myself for putting my best jump out there at the end of the competition even after I already knew I had won. But somehow things got recorded wrong and that mark never showed up. It makes no difference except that I was kind of proud of it and nobody was going to know. But then I thought…hey, I got my own corner of the web to tell that part of the story. ☺

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

American Perspectives

Americans think we’re the best at everything. Did you not know that? If you do something different than us, you do it wrong. I witness this all the time while traveling with my American counterparts in countries all over the world. We love to complain when things are different than how we are used to and we are at a loss at why the rest of the world just doesn’t get it. Because we spend so much of our time at hotels while at competitions, this is prime setting for complaints. But I’ve started thinking...what if we are the ones who have it backwards?!

Dear fellow Americans, perhaps we should take a closer look at a few of these things and contemplate how we might be looking at it all wrong. You might be surprised the next time you travel how much it all seems to make sense if you just take a slightly different perspective. Maybe they’re the ones who have it right…

*no washcloths: The World is going green and it’s leaving America behind. No, European hotels don’t have washcloths, and if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. They’re saving tons of gallons of water each and every day by not having to wash them. I mean, it’s not like I roll around in sand and am covered in dirt when I take a shower. Oh wait…

*mini beds placed two inches apart from each other: It’s a great way to get to know someone on a personal level. I also think it’s brilliant when you think for a second that you’ve been given a room with one big bed but in fact, all you need to do is pull the two twin beds apart and voila!

*Incomplete shower doors and/or curtains: I’m not totally sure about this one, but I’d like to take a wild guess and say that maybe you can also wash the bathroom floor the same time you’re washing your body. Or an impromptu game of slip and slide?

*Runny eggs: We must be cooking our eggs too long in America. It was meant to be a soup and we’ve ruined it by scrambling the heck out of them and boiling them far too long.

*room temperature, shot glass drinks
: I’ve always thought that the Big Gulp was a monstrosity. I’ve learned now that all you really need is a swig or two before your meal gets to the table. Just wet your palette and be done with it. Come on, we all know that .2l wasn’t meant to be enjoyed with your meal…it’s just an appetizer. Anything more and you’d probably spoil your appetite anyway.

*no lifts (aka elevators): It’s true. We are lazy. But sometimes I think I deserve a bit of laziness when I’m carrying a 50 lb bag. Oh well, I’ll just relax when I get to my room and turn on the AC. Oh wait…nevermind. :/

Have I converted any Yanks? Anything I left out? Any Europeans want to co-sign on my observations?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Diamonds and Chitlins

The European Circuit covers a wide spectrum of meets. The top tiered meets are now part of The Diamond League Series and in this series you’re awarded points for finishing first, second, and third. The eight people with the most points at the end get to participate in the Diamond League final that happens at the end of August. But of course there are other meets to participate in as well. Some of these meets are really nice with great accommodations, food that is edible, and in cities you can find on a map. Some others…not so much. Among ourselves, we call these bottom level meets the Chitlin Circuit.

I’ve done my share of bottom level meets over the years and let’s just say it makes you grateful for high thread count sheets and discernable meat. This year though, I’ve been able to participate in all the Diamond League meets that have had my event and have done well enough to be tied for 1st in the points thus far. I was looking forward to the next Diamond League meet, in Paris, where my leg would be feeling a little bit better and I’d have a few more days of recovery under my belt. But it seems I have a case of counting chickens before they’re hatched apparently. I mistakenly thought that my performances so far this season, along with my place in the points race would guarantee me a spot in the meet. But no.

They’ve put me on a waitlist. That’s basically the same as sitting at home on a Friday night waiting for your phone to ring around 8pm for dinner plans. It sucks, and you know you’re better than that, but you keep your phone in clear view at all times anyway. (I’m totally kidding…ladies, don’t EVER accept dinner plans the night of.) I’m well aware of the fact that I should be in the meet and if I pleaded my case to you here, you’d completely agree with me. But that isn’t the way our world works sometimes. For all the objectivity that comes with the sport of track and field, there is a lot of subjectivity at play.

So not only do I not have a chance to compete in Paris for good prize money, try and earn more points to guarantee myself a spot in the Diamond League final, and eat wonderful French cuisine, I must pack my bags and take a 4:30 am flight to a city I would never be able to find on a map. In fact, I’m not even sure of the country. But I’ll be there…competing for peanuts.

If you can’t tell, I’m a little bitter about this whole situation. But if I’m being honest (and I try very hard to do so on this blog, if you couldn’t tell), it’s simply a case of me being dealt the bad hand this time. Yes, this time I “deserve” it, but has there been times when I was in top meets when other, more deserving jumpers sat at home? Probably. It doesn’t make me feel any better about it, but I guess that’s just life sometimes. I just want to compete at my best against the best jumpers in the world. But it seems that’s going to have to wait a while.

EDIT TO ADD: seems I just might be going to Paris afterall... OUI!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dumb and Dumber...and Me

Competing at the Diamond League meeting in Lausanne had always been on the calendar. In fact, it was my biggest competition in July. Obviously I was bummed I was going to have to miss it, but for some odd reason, everyone thinks strains…pulls…tears--whatever it is you do to muscles that makes them hurt--take a little while to heal. I had already relegated myself to lonely nights alone in my hot, stuffy apartment when I received the email containing my flight itinerary to Switzerland. Surely it was a mistake. But after a quick word with my agent, it was decided that a trip to Switzerland to a hotel that had air conditioning , and a chance to see some good physiotherapists and doctors might be a good idea. OH. And the chocolate. Definitely wanted to go for the chocolate.

So I was there. A day after I did my first actual running on the track and happily reported back that my leg felt pretty good after the little bit of rest I gave it, I found myself facing the ultimate temptation. You see, in the back of my mind I knew it would be a strong possibility I would try to compete if I actually made it to the track meet. I didn’t really discuss it with anybody because I know they’d all give me good advice and tell me it wasn’t worth it. And to be totally honest with you, it probably wasn’t. But my brain doesn’t work that way. I’d liken it to a shopoholic finding themselves plopped down in the middle of the semi-annual sale at Nordstroms. How do you not shop?!! Well, that’s how I feel about competing. I saw the doctor while I was there and after his evaluation he told me he could definitely tell it was coming along nicely in terms of healing, however it may be too soon to really compete, but who knows, it may be fine. I looked back at him as he waited for me to respond with something along the lines of it’s better to be careful…better safe than sorry…I’ll just keep resting and wait til the next one…. But my mind went a whole different direction. ”Hmm I said, ”So you’re saying there’s a chance?!! And for some odd reason I just don’t think he ever watched Dumb and Dumber.

Before I continue on and tell you how the meet actually turned out, let me issue a word of caution to anyone who might be reading this and taking their “come back from injury tips” from me. Plain and simple, I’m a hard headed idiot. I won’t try and justify it and say that it made better sense looking at the big picture and that I knew I’d be okay. Don’t get me wrong, I truly thought I would be okay, but nobody else really agreed with me. But as much as I appreciate people who specialize at what they do, at the end of the day I am the one who knows my body the best and makes decisions on what it will and will not attempt. So, this time I put my executive powers to use.

The competition was okay. I ended up 4th and jumped 6.64 on my very first attempt. I mention that because it was a steep decline of a competition pretty much after that. Two weeks of no training leaves your body in a bit of a rusty state as I quickly realized. But I was very pleased with that because jumping a decent jump at a big meet and staying healthy after it was all said and done was all I really wanted. I guess the beauty of being in such an individual sport and really having a bare bones support structure around me at the moment is that I learn to make big decisions on my own and know that I have nobody to blame or congratulate but me when it’s all said and done. I was fully ready to take the blame if I set myself back even more by attempting to compete. But I am happy to report that I feel good…not great yet…but definitely not worse!

Monday, July 5, 2010


I have been a very unpleasant person the last couple of days. I just walk around in a perpetual funk, with a feeling that everything possible that could go wrong, will. By doing that, I probably just think it in to existence. Nevertheless, life as Brianna Glenn has been one disappointment after another. Some examples:

On my train trip from France to Germany the lady took me to the wrong train station, causing me to miss my train. Of course, I had bought the completely non-refundable version in order to save myself $3 DOLLARS!!! and so the first part of my journey had to be re-bought. Then, when I arrived in Paris, I realized I had to switch train stations. No worries, they are close by. They are also separated by the world’s largest staircase known to man. Did I mention that I had two months worth of luggage with me? I was a sweaty, smelly French woman after that experience.

By the time I actually arrive in Germany, find my way to my apartment, and walk up three more flights of stairs (they DO NOT believe in elevators in Europe), I am greeted by the hottest attic apartment I have ever been in. There is something of a heat wave going on out here and in addition to a dislike for elevators, there is also a disdain for air conditioning. It’s nowhere. So, of course I sat down on the couch and cried. Then, I left the apartment to find a fan. I made my way to the main street and turned left. I walked about a mile until I decided to cross the street and walk back the other way, and walk the other way for an additional mile past where my starting point was. No. Fans. Anywhere. Then, as I approached my street and have made up my mind that the whole world is conspiring against me, I see a store of hodgepodge items right on the corner of my street with a neat little pile of fans in the window. It’s literally less than 100 meters from my apartment. And I laugh. Out loud. (one of those cynical laughs, of course)

It takes me an hour and a half to assemble the fan. Don’t ask me why…I’d feel even dumber for explaining it. I then try to get on the internet that was supposed to be available in the apartment. It was the one request I made when searching for a place. But of course, nothing. I turned on the T.V. in hopes of getting lucky and catching some re-runs of Friends in English or something. Nope. So, I just sat in utter silence 2 inches in front of my working fan and moped until I fell asleep.

The next day was not much better. I had a friend of a friend who was going to take me to see a doctor out here in Germany but I HAD to be there by a certain time. So what do I do? I get on the subway going the wrong direction. 6 stops later I finally realize it but by then of course I miss the appointment. I really could go on and on with stories about my unfortunate luck but I think you get the picture. I can’t catch a break.

It was after the 3rd day of one thing after another when I finally realized I needed an attitude adjustment. I was not doing myself any favors by thinking the world was conspiring against me to make life a living hell. I am out here in Germany with no friends, no connection to the outside world, no real ability to train, and my apartment didn’t even have a coffee maker! But I was making it worse than it really needed to be.

So I bought myself a coffee machine, found a Starbucks about 20 min away with free wifi and skyped with my best friend, then went out and did a warm up at the track to see how my leg felt. And wouldn’t you know…life is no longer as miserable! The best part is that my leg feels a ton better and cannot be possibly as bad as I was lead to believe.

Life gets a whole lot better when you have a better attitude about things!