Friday, May 27, 2011

Nothing to Say...

It's a little difficult to skip over updates of competitions when you have a blog. I'd like to--and at times I do it anyway-- but I know it's a little suspect. The fact of the matter is that sometimes there just isn't much to say. Rio had all the making of a great ending to my trek through Brazil. It had started off good in Belem, showed some promise in Sao Paolo (even though the mark might have seemed somewhat mediocre), and was really going to end with a bang. That was my plan. I thought my mind and body were in agreement but unfortunately they weren't.

Bad performances happen. Sometimes there is insight to be gained. Maybe I mentally wasn't strong and let the environment get the best of me, or perhaps my technique was a bit off and I need to focus on certain cues to make sure I'm telling my body to do what I know it should be doing. But sometimes, like yesterday, there just isn't really much to analyze. All day I felt great and excited to compete. I go to warm up and I felt like crap. No rhyme or reason, it just felt ugh. That's not the total truth… for some reason as soon as I got to the track my stomach started doing the jig and it wasn't the happy one. I blamed it on something I ate (or drank) that had finally got the best of me down here. So I went to the bathroom, made myself throw up to get it out of my system, and tried to get back to business.

But it wasn't there. I honestly felt that when I jumped 6.44 it was a pretty decent jump. Turns out not only was it was the best I could muster the whole night, it was the lowest mark of my season overall. Blah. Blah. Blah. But when you play this game long enough, you know sometimes there really is nothing more to it. I was off and I tried my best to turn it on, but I just couldn't do it. So now that I've said that I don't have anything to say, let's move on, shall we?

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's a Bet

I train at the Olympic Training Center. It's home to some of the best athletes in the U.S. and the World, all of whom are working day in and day out to reach their goals and realize a dream. It is a great environment that lends itself to encouragement and inspiration at every turn. One of the things I like best about training there is that there are always other athlete's to push you and make you want to be better than you already are. It's pretty amazing.

While I've been away in Brazil, there have been meets at the training center to allow athletes that aren't traveling chances to compete and opportunities to get some good marks that count. The other day I saw a tweet from my buddy Lex that said he had long jumped a windy 6.92 at the competition that day, his best ever under any conditions. I immediately tweeted back at him how awesome that was and offering my congrats. If you're not familiar with Lex, he is a totally blind paralympic athlete, that trains and competes knowing that not having his eyesight is no excuse not to accomplish anything he sets his mind to. It's daily inspiration in the truest form.

But instead of tweeting me back a simple "thanks", Lex decided to throw a challenge my way-- because that's what real athletes do… we make everything a competition. Lex and I have very close personal bests. He recently set the world record in the long jump at 6.74, and my best is 6.81. His best mark overall in any conditions is now 6.92 and mine is a hair behind at 6.84. So he challenged me and said said the first one to reach 7 meters has to buy the other one dinner. And I was like, BRING IT. Why? Because I know we are both capable of jumping that mark but I also know how much I like a free meal, aaaand how much I'm not that keen on buying men dinner.

So, to make it truly official I am putting this bet out on the world wide web. Not only so that we both be held accountable, but also because I want to see us both reach this milestone sooner rather than later, so I might as well put some fire behind it! And also, if you'd like someone to cheer for and follow, besides me of course, I've now introduced you to the perfect athlete: Lex Gillette

Monday, May 16, 2011

Brazil Part 1

Perhaps it's my skin tone. Or maybe the fact that I've recently done the Brazilian Blowout treatment to my hair. Whatever the case, these folks think I'm Brazilian. They speak to me so quickly in Portuguese that it makes my head spin. And the best I can do is smile and disappoint them. Only English,I say,… and maybe some spanish that I throw out in hopes that it happens to be the similar words they have in their language.

When I got to the competition site to compete, however, everyone knew that I was the American. My event consisted of 8 competitors, 7 of them from the home country, including the most recent Olympic Champion. The crowd was loud, energetic, and full of energy… until it was my turn to jump. Then it was crickets. I was so sure that my top two competitors were jumping world record distances because the crowd erupted in cheers every time they finished a fair jump, that I just knew there was a mistake when after the first three jumps the lady tried to tell me, in portuguese, that I would be jumping last. Last means you have the furthest jump so far in the competition, so I must've misunderstood her words mixed with hand signals. But I looked at the sheet and confirmed it. Sweet, I was winning.

I furthered my lead in the 5th round with a jump of 6.74 and continued to funnel the energy my way, even though I knew it wasn't meant for me. The truth of the matter is though, I sort of enjoy the role of the underdog. I knew I was ready to jump well, but I certainly didn't have any pressure from people assuming I was supposed to win. Not to mention it was a nice change that the entire crowd to stay and see the end of our competition even after all the running events were through because we had the crowd favorite competing and they were paying attention. We were the main show and not a side show that was quickly forgotten once the last race passed the finish line. Imagine that.

I have two more long jump competitions while I'm out here, and while I know I won't be the crowd favorite, I look forward to competing in the crowd's favorite event.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Caribbean Clocks

Here is the thing about Jamaicans: They aren't in a hurry for anything unless it's getting to the finish line or driving to their destination. If you've been on the roads in Jamaica, that doesn't even need any explanation. Everything else can wait. For a person who absolutely loves time schedules, this can be frustrating. Some examples from this weekend…

* I arrived in Jamaica after flying a red eye all night and spending an additional 3 1/2 hours in the Miami airport. All I wanted to do was fly through customs, get to the hotel, and take a nap. But the customs officers? They saw no reason to hurry. I waited over an hour in a line that in any other country, would have taken 15 minutes. 10 in Asia. I honestly felt like they were stamping in slow motion.

*I was headed to the track the day before the meet to do a shakeout and the schedule said a bus would be leaving every 30 minutes from 3pm on. I headed down at 3:30 and sat in the lobby until 4:30. Why? I have no idea, actually. I asked after about 20 minutes of waiting and was told bus is comin'. It came again an hour and a half later, and I guess that was close enough for them.

*I ordered a quesadilla from the bar and got it an hour later. No explanation.

*The day of the meet there was supposed to be transportation every 15 minutes. The bus filled up at 6 and then waited. 6:15… 6:20… Finally we asked what we were waiting for. Police Escort. Because there will be traffic by the stadium. Needless to say, the amount of time we saved waiting for the escort was probably not as much as what we lost sitting there waiting for it to show up…from who knows where. But like I said, when they drive they are on a mission. The trip to and from the track had me closing my eyes and praying to Jesus at some points. We literally drove into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road if our side was backed up, took to the sidewalks, narrowly missed sideswiping both people and cars… you name it. It was an adventure.

* My event was supposed to start at 8:15pm. I had an excellent warmup and was ready to go but they weren't calling us, so I went to inquire. Turns out they had pushed our start time 20 minutes but didn't tell anyone. When we finally did get out to the track, the men's triple jump was in their first round. And so we waited. Over an hour later, we finally started. Did it take some of the wind out of my sails? Sure. But since the whole entire field had to wait just as long as me, that can't possibly be my reason for not jumping better than I did.

All in all, I had a good time in Jamaica and it was an excellent meet to participate in, I just wish I would have competed better. I wish I could figure out island scheduling… but that probably isn't going to happen. It's obvious I can do a better job at rolling with the flow. Next week is Brazil, and on time or not, I plan on jumping well.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jamaica Mon

This weekend I get to really start competing. Everyone knows that real competitions start once you get on a plane and have to fly ridiculously uncomfortable distances to have a little stiffness and jet lag thrown into the mix to really count. My first competition will be in Jamaica, a country I visited and competed in once before. Why don't I take a second and get all nostalgic and tell you about it…

The first (and last) time I went to a competition in Kingston was back in 2008. It was one of my very first meets of the year and I was excited to be going to an exotic location. Meets are always that much funner when you get to throw in a mini vacay on the side. So, I get off the plane looking for the nearest Sandals resort, some nice shops to buy my rastafari necklaces and such, and all the beautiful locations I was going to photograph and add to my scrapbook. And then I was quickly introduced to Kingston. Kingston is not the Jamaica of postcard notoriety. I had stupidly assumed that the whole island would be one big, happy all-inclusive resort with Bob Marley playing in the background, and people eagerly handing me a rum punch to enjoy at the beach. But no. That Jamaica is a 3 hour trip from where I was, and I quickly took in my new surroundings. This side of Jamaica couldn't be more different than where the resorts are located but I appreciated it for what it was.

Now…about the competition. Like I said, it was one of the first competitions of my season. Unfortunately for me, it was also the beginning of my downward spiral that led me to surgery and the end to a season I had such high hopes for. During the competition it seems that a couple pieces of cartilage broke off in my knee and lodged in places they shouldn't have. The crazy thing is, your brain doesn't know such a thing has happened. One minute I could run and jump, and the next… I couldn't even walk. It was a bizarre thing that I would come to understand better in the week that followed, but at that moment all I knew was that my knee would all the sudden not be able to bend and be excruciatingly painful, to almost normal, and back to excruciating again. All I could do was cry. Obviously.

So now I feel extremely blessed to be going back to Jamaica a completely healthy jumper(relatively speaking). I know this is going to be an exciting meet with an electrifying atmosphere and an opportunity to really compete well. I think it's important to take note when life brings you full circle and you find yourself in a place you've been before but now can have a whole new perspective on. I try to take nothing for granted when it comes to opportunities like this. I had tried to get in to another meet this weekend and was a bit bummed it didn't work out, but then I remembered my last trip to Jamaica and I decided to appreciate fully my opportunity to return and make new memories there. And hopefully eat jerk chicken.