Friday, August 27, 2010

Beer Bike

I was sitting outside at a café when I saw it. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I heard it first. Loud music accompanied by some very off key singing. When I turned to look I saw a group of people having the time of their lives onboard some sort of contraption they were pedaling. From the looks of it, they were celebrating some sort of Bachelor party but whatever it was, it looked fun! In true Bri fashion, I committed the website plastered on the side to memory and went home to look it up to see if I might be able to experience that kind of unique adventure.

It’s called a “Beer Bike” and basically it consists of 10-15 people sitting and pedaling on a Flinstone-esque machine and taking a tour of the city, all while drinking beer (there is a keg on board), eating sausage and chips, and blaring whatever music they desire. There was only one problem with this great idea. You couldn’t hop on with a couple of your buddies, the whole bike had to be rented by you and your friends and it was a 10 person minimum. So I waited patiently until I knew there were enough people I knew by name in the city at once, and then invited them all to join me for a party and a workout all rolled into one!

I played Bartender (my sneaky way of being able to stand in the center and not have to pedal for two hours straight), and my 10 buddies propelled us through the streets on a tour of the city. We had compiled a playlist of 80’s hits and sung at the top of our lungs to MJ, U2, and Madonna for 2 hours. It was a Tuesday and we had nothing to celebrate but that didn’t stop of from having a good time and making great memories!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cologne, Germany

This is my second summer living in Germany. For the few years before that I had always been based in Italy, which is lovely for my eating habits but maybe not so much for my six-pack. There is only so long an athlete can sustain themselves on pizza and gelato. I found the threshold and crossed it…many times. Before coming to Germany though, I was slightly apprehensive. Sure, I travel to a lot of different places, but I never actually spend much time in any one place. In my mind, Germans were a bit stoic and unfriendly, not to mention I was never a huge fan of schnitzel. Staying in Cologne last summer though changed my opinion drastically. The city was vibrant and full of life, and the people were friendly and open-minded.

Last year my apartment was smack dab in the middle of city centre, close to all the action and the hustle and bustle of everything. It was my kind of place. People spoke English, you could find any kind of food you desired, and Starbucks was just down the street. I didn’t have to pay rent for that apartment though so when it came time this year to find a place and the money was coming out of my own pocket, I opted for something a little more affordable, which translated to not staying in tourist central. For the first couple of weeks I absolutely hated it and complained to anyone who would listen. I think I actually claimed to be living in the ghetto. Of course, if you’ve ever been to the ghetto you’d laugh that I had the nerve to say that, but the graffiti all over the walls was my proof.

There are some people who like to immerse themselves in the local culture and there are others who like to have as many comforts of home as possible to make them feel at ease. I tend to be the latter. This neighborhood I was in was not for my type. None of the restaurants had menus I could read, hardly anyone spoke good English or even bothered to try, and there was NO STARBUCKS with free wifi in the vicinity. And I already mentioned the graffiti. It was everywhere.

Now that I am in my last week here though, I am realizing how much I grew to like this place. The restaurants in my neighborhood are some of the best I’ve experienced in Germany. I know people and they know me. There is the guy at the corner Kebab place who knows my order by heart. And the nice man at the phone shop who made it so that I could have internet on my laptop and doesn’t mind spending 15 minutes setting it up for me while I wait because I can never understand the German instructions. And the group of men at the Italian café who say ciao Bella every.single.time I walk by. Or my favorite…the owner of Felafel King just around the corner. He’s from Lebanon and his English isn’t that good so sometimes we try Spanish. I don’ speak Spanish but he knows I’m from California so he figures I know enough. I’ve seen pictures of his wife and kids. I pretty much know his whole life story, actually. And he always asks about my best friend that visited. He says she looks like Naomi Campbell and that’s true only in the sense that she’s black. But hey…if you are going to be compared to anyone, Naomi Campbell ain’t bad.

The graffiti no longer bothers me and I actually prefer not having Starbucks around the corner. Even with free wifi, 4 euros is just too much for a latte. I am SO ready to go home but I think I will be excited to come back next summer and say hello to my new friends.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Learning...the hard way.

What’s this?! Another blog about an unimpressive meet? Yea, I’m sure you want to read it only slightly more than I feel like writing it. There is only so much to say about a topic that seems to be a reoccurring theme and I’m not a fan of broken records. But being that this blog is a snapshot of my life and there is not much more to my life at this time of year than competitions, it’s hard to ignore the obvious.

It is clear right now that I am not succeeding in the way that I had hoped to. But am I learning? Because if there is something to be gained from having back to back (to back) mediocre meets, not rising to the occasion when the time calls for it, and finishing a season with far less oomph than I started it with, then I want to be sure I am taking the best notes possible. All I have now is the opportunity to grow from my mistakes, to take a look at everything I want to accomplish in the next couple of years and find a way to do better.

I’ve decided that if I can’t have success than I at least want to have growth. And if I am to grow as an athlete, a competitor, and a person, then I better do my best to learn whatever I can from my experiences. It is not possible to just learn from your successes, you also must learn from your failures. I’m pretty sure that’s why they’re there…to teach you something that you haven’t fully grasped yet and that will help you be better for the future. Life is all about lessons. There is really no such thing as peaks without valleys and we would never appreciate our triumphs if we didn’t experience failures along the way.

I’m in the middle of a valley right now in a couple different areas of my life but I am determined to learn so that I will grow. And when I climb my way to the peak (which of course I will!), these experiences will have their proper place in the journey. They most certainly won’t be the end of it.

words of encouragement wouldn't hurt either :)

“God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in any other way. The way we learn those lessons is not to deny the feelings but to find the meanings underlying them.” -Stanley Lindquist

Monday, August 16, 2010

Counting Chickens

Many people have asked me why I didn’t compete in London this weekend. I wish I could say that I just happened to be busy this past weekend…that instead of making the trip to London I decided to sail along the Mediterranean or something… but who are we fooling. I’m the girl that has competed in absolutely every long jump competition this year. Seriously…every one, except for the one in Daegu because I simply couldn’t find a flight that would get me to Brazil from Korea fast enough. The fact that I even considered it is probably reason enough to claim I’m insane, but that’s a whole other blog. So I guess the simple, truthful answer for me not competing in London is that they didn’t want me there.

This is not such a strange phenomena in our sport. You get into meets based on invitations from the meet director. For the most part, it makes perfect sense why you are or aren’t in a meet, but there are times when it doesn’t. I don’t ever really like to assume I will definitely be invited so my calendar is often a list of different scenarios and at the last minute I’ll know where I will end up. I don’t count on anything… except London. You see, for my entire career I have competed at Crystal Palace every year that I can remember them having my event. Why is this significant? Well, because some years I just wasn’t that good. Based on my performances, I probably wasn’t deserving of a spot in a meet of that caliber, but somehow I got in. I always got in.

So being that this has been my best season to date, I had London marked on the calendar from the beginning. In fact, I even told people to come watch me in London, that’s how sure I was that I would be there. So imagine my surprise when I’m confirming my competition plans for August and I realize there is a question mark by London. I’ve been “waitlisted.” Being put on the waitlist basically means that you aren’t confirmed for the meet but if something happens to someone who is confirmed and they can no longer compete, you’re good to go. Oftentimes in this sport you are only as good as your last meet, and my last meet hadn’t been so stellar. So I accepted my status and patiently waited (and prayed) that someone would drop out and I would be given a chance. Then, in the three days preceding the meet half of my prayer was answered. Three different people pulled out of the meet for various reasons. But as you can probably guess, it never had any affect on my personal waitlist status.

According to my calculations, I was ending the season with a large bucket of extra crispy from KFC. I counted my chickens and I was good to go. But it wasn’t to be, and my expectations ended up making the situation a lot harder to deal with. Never again will I put a competition on the calendar before I am actually confirmed for it. Fortunately for me though, two years from now there is a meet in London that I have absolute control on whether or not I get an invite. If that is the next time I’m able to see London then I will wait patiently.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Here, Take This!

Submitting to random drug testing is a necessary evil of our sport. It sucks, it’s inconvenient, but at the end of the day it’s for the greater good. The inconvenient aspect of it comes in two main forms, the when and the what. The when would be the whereabouts forms that must be up to date at all times so that they can find us and order us to pee on demand, 365 days of the year. With schedules like ours, this is a daunting task but it ensures the element of surprise, which is needed in order to catch people trying to cheat. The “what” is all the things you could possibly have in your system that could cause you to have a positive test. The reason this part gets tricky is that it’s not just about staying away from a bottle labeled “testosterone” or “human growth hormone”. There are pages and pages of lists of things that cannot be in our system, most of which I have no idea what they are because I never earned my chemist degree. But it is our job and responsibility to know. Therefore, we will often be sick as a dog but unable to take certain over the counter cold medicines out of fear.

All of this brings me to a funny little occurrence that happened the other day at the track. I’m in Germany training in between meets and I had went to the track with the purpose of doing a workout. However, my body had other ideas. I warmed up and just sat there. I was drained, my body was tired, and it just didn’t make sense to try and make it do something it obviously was not in a position to do. In talking with another local athlete at the track, I explained to him my body just felt raggedy. His response? He goes in his bag and hands me this…

He says it will make me feel better and give me some energy. But all I see is a vile of liquid with ingredients and instructions in a language I don’t speak. Why on earth would I take such a thing? I wouldn’t, of course, but it struck me as comical that someone would think it was okay to hand out supplements like that. Imagine if it came out I had a positive test and then I tried to tell you this story after the fact? You’d laugh in my face and roll your eyes.

So, my body still feels a little raggedy, but I think I’ll just eat some oranges and bananas. Better safe than sorry!

Monday, August 9, 2010


I am in a bit of a slump, both mentally and physically. Of course, the mental aspect is caused by the physical aspect and so if I could fix what I am doing, I would immediately feel better. Easier said than done, right?! But nevertheless, it can be done.

On a scale of 1-10 this past month in Europe has been about a 2 for me. I’ve have competed in a total of 5 meets and 3 of those meets have been Diamond League meetings. In 2 out of the 3 I have completely bombed. There is significance in this trend. To call it just the normal ebb and flow of what every athlete experiences in their sport might not be a true reflection. I believe in ups and downs. I believe that every great athlete—from Michael Jordan, to Serena Williams, to Tiger Woods, to Jerry Rice, to Jackie Joyner Kersee, —experiences times when they don’t live up to their own expectation and when things just don’t seem to go in the right direction no matter how hard they try. It’s simply not possible for an athlete-- a normal human being-- to not have an off day.

So why do I not accept that this is just a normal slump for me? Well, it occurred to me hours after my meet in Stockholm as I sat in my room and stared at the blank wall that I was doing it to myself all over again. If it had been just one big meet that had gone bad I could possibly write it off as just an off day. But I had felt good and competed badly--twice. And unfortunately I just don’t think it was a coincidence.

I like to believe that I’m strong-minded and have an unbreakable competitive spirit. But sometimes there are cracks. It happens when I start to look at the big picture. When I can be in the moment and just worry about one single jump, I’m good. But there are times when I make it more than that. I don’t want how far I jump in the sand today to determine how long I will be able to pay my rent. But in the back of my mind I know that it does. That pressure can sometimes cripple me because I know that in my personal situation, I have a small window to perform well enough to be able to do this for another year. And when that window begins to close in on me, I start to panic and try to make it happen instead of letting it happen.

This is my Achilles heel. You can tell me not to worry and stress about things and that’s all well and good. I agree with you. You can also tell me not to think about the pink elephant. It’s sometimes just harder than it seems. These opportunities are amazing and I want to make the most of them. I want to be present and in the moment and competing to the best of my ability. I just need to relax. Focus. Regroup. The rent will get paid…somehow it always does.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dining on the Circuit

The circuit can often have some very eerie similarities to high school. One way this is clearly seen is in the dining hall. For the most part, our meals take place in a big room, buffet style. This is fine if you walk in with friends or quickly spot a group of people who like you that have saved you a seat, but sometimes that’s just not the case. Sometimes, it’s like that awkward first day of school when you walk in and everybody just stares, then turns back to their little clique of friends, who all seem to be laughing heartily—probably at you.

I remember my first international competition in 2001 (give me a break, I was still in college!) when I walked into the dining hall all alone and didn’t know a soul. I was just about ready to see if I could sneak my plate up back to my room and eat in solace when Angelo Taylor (someone I didn’t know at all) invited me to sit at his table. The fact that I remember this occurring is kind of crazy, but it just goes to show you the relief I must’ve felt in that moment. Nowadays, I know plenty of people and actually don’t mind sitting with people I don’t know, or by myself for that matter. But that’s because I am now in my comfort zone. Some other athletes may not be, so I decided to give you some helpful hints.

Avoid being Clique-ish … It’s very easy to just do what is most comfortable so a lot of times you’ll see tables of just throwers or pole vaulters, etc. People also tend to gravitate towards their own countrymen. All this is very unnecessary. You must infiltrate! You also must make it easy for others to join your group as well. It is possible to have something in common with someone who throws the discus even if you’ve never held one in your life. And as long as someone can communicate with you in the same language, there are a ton of cool people who aren’t American. I always mix it up. In fact, I find that I pick up a pretty cool accent when I sit at a table full of Aussies or Brits and that is an added bonus. (Nevermind that both my Australian accent and British accent sound the same.)

I like to eat. Therefore, my favorite people to eat with are the throwers. Why? Because they enjoy eating just as much as anybody. I also have found that they are some of the most enjoyable people to be around. They do tend to hang together so a lot of times I have to wiggle my way in to the group but it’s always worth it. I find distance runners to be all across the board. There are some that eat like rabbits and there are others who couldn’t weigh 100 pounds soaking wet but who can eat any thrower under the table. LOVE THAT! For all other event groups, you just have to use your judgment. A lot of times you get a lot of health nuts and this can be bothersome. I like to eat somewhat healthy but that’s only so I won’t develop cellulite. I hate to eat with people who refuse to put salad dressing on their salad and won’t eat more than 4 oz. of chicken because they might go over their calorie count for the day. These are the athletes who will never join you for a trip to the dessert table and look at you side eyed when you come back with a scoop of ice cream.

If anyone has hints to add, be my guest. :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Fall

It was like it was happening in a flash and in slow motion at the same time. I had hopped on a train with my friends and was being entertained by the fierce game of paper, rock, scissors that was taking place. Normally, I would be sitting or at the very least holding on to something but at this moment I was doing neither. So when the train lurched forward and Becky went to do her victory slap, I was caught off guard and either I plunged into her or she fell back into me. Whatever the case, neither one of us could stop ourselves. I was in the middle of a packed train on my bum with my legs in the air with a bunch of Germans pointing and laughing. Well, half the train was laughing and the other half was staring out the window as if they had no idea that two loud Americans had just fallen and were sprayed out on the floor. I've come to believe that this must be part of the German culture, to simply ignore things that don't concern you. Although you know who couldn't ignore me even though he tried? The guy who's leg I rested against after my fall. For some reason I thought I was leaning up against something other than a human being, so I stayed there for far too long dying of laughter and clutching my stomach until I felt something move. That's when I thought to glance behind me and realized that not only had I made a fool of myself, I was now using another person as a back rest. Of course he is politely staring out the window as if nothing has occurred and it's perfectly natural for someone to fall into him. Luckily for me, I had five friends with me and one take the fall right along side me. Otherwise, I might just be dead from embarrassment right now. Instead, I had the most intense laugh I've had in a long time. I think my soul needed that. My tailbone, on the other hand, did not.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I'm Baaaack!

You haven’t heard from me much in the past week or so. I don’t know if you even noticed, but I somehow feel negligent when I don’t do any posting for days at a time, yet I see that people are still checking, waiting for the most thought provoking blogs that rock their world. Yea…not quite. Anyway, my reason for going M.I.A. was because I had a visit in Europe from the bestest friend EVER. I mean, it’s one thing for a friend to visit you stateside, but how many of you can say you know someone who would fly across an ocean to keep you company?! I’m a lucky girl.

Melanie was here for a week and she forced me to look up everything fun and interesting there is to do in Cologne so that I could be a good host. I had a feeling she wouldn’t be all that interested in seeing the track and weight room so I did my best to take her out and see the sights. Then, as an added bonus, we took a trip to Prague for the weekend. That’s why Europeans have it so good…they can just take an hour flight and be in a whole other country and experience a totally different culture. I fly for an hour at home and don’t even leave the state I live in!

Needless to say, Prague was great. Thanks to everyone who offered their opinions as to where we should spend a few days experiencing a different part of Europe. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and Mel even managed to fall in love. Well…maybe not quite love but she certainly helped us get some free dinners by being so appealing. Apparently, I’m not the flavor of the month in that part of Europe but next time I’m going to try and vacation somewhere I can be.

Because a post is always better with pictures, here are a few from our week together.

Mel being the perfect German, hanging out in a Biergarten with a sausage and a beer!

The Dom. A must see in Cologne.

People drink beer in Germany. Not water, not juice, not soda. Just. Beer. I prefer it on the river with the sun shining down.

View of Prague on the way up to see the Castle.

At a bar called "Propoganda", filled with Communist artifacts. I wonder what people think when we hand them our camera and then pose like this!

In the middle of Wenclalas Square. I felt like my presence added something.