Friday, June 29, 2012

The Road to London

Today I finally get my opportunity to lace up my spikes, step on the runway, and really get this party started. I'm excited. As the sign in the picture says, "The Road to London starts here." It's been a long week of patiently waiting and putting the finishing touches on starting on that road that I've spent years preparing for. The majority of people in the stands tomorrow might not be all that excited to see me out there, but there are about fifteen people who made the trip to Eugene especially for me to be my support and my cheering squad. And they are the best support group a girl could ever ask for. I am thankful and beyond blessed to have such amazing people in my corner who love and support me and who might even call in some favors to the Big Man to have the wind behind me push me a little further into the pit. And there is also YOU. Some who I know personally and some who I don't-- who visit my blog, read my ramblings, and allow me to share a little piece of my journey,--you are special to me. Thank you for letting me know that you care because it's a source of inspiration even when you may not realize it. Thank you for following along in this journey… cheering me on… sending well wishes… and most importantly, thank you for your prayers. I told someone the other day that I may not have the most fans, a ton of endorsements, or anything like that, but I truly believe that I have some of the most fiercest prayer warriors out there in my corner. That motivates and inspires me like no other because I believe in the power of prayer and the strength that comes in knowing that God has a specific purpose and plan for my life these next couple of days. He's already ordered my steps and `given me all the ability I need. That calms my spirit, builds my confidence, and allows me to compete with joy in my heart because I know it is a blessing to be able to do my very best as an offering to God.

So, here is to following your dreams with all your heart and doing your very best because that is all there is to do. I am excited to see where the road will lead.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In Eugene

I will be spending the week in Eugene, waiting for my opportunity to earn my spot on the Olympic Team. Being here for a whole week is a great thing, but it comes with it's own set of challenges. You can feel the excitement, cut the electricity with a knife, and feed off the emotion that surrounds you. But at the same time you have to be careful. You don't want to expend all your energy throughout the week and then find yourself depleted by the time it comes for you to compete. You don't want to stay on the Olympic "high" for too long, because it can literally drain you. Everyone prepares differently for big meets, and I can't tell you that I have found the perfect formula, but I do know that I have had the blessing to experiment in years past and find out what does and doesn't work all that well for me. Of course at the time I didn't know I was experimenting, but because past experiences can be our best teacher, I have learned over the years what kind of person I am not and shouldn't pretend to be.

My lessons:

*Don't be a social butterfly: I have been in the sport for so long that I know a lot of people. I have many friends that are competing, half the coaches I have worked with at some time in my career, and there are a ton of people to air kiss with and make small talk. But it is hard to be "on" all the time. I have chosen to not stay at the athlete hotel so that I can make sure I keep my time more to myself and that I don't feed off of others emotions too much. People are having their highest highs and their lowest lows this week, and I don't want to join them for either. The hotel lobby at meets is an experience in and of itself, and the Olympic Trials just exaggerates this. I have my own little studio where I can eat breakfast in solitude, and I don't have to be reminded every waking second of all the hoopla that is here.

*Know who you are: I remember back in 2004 when I was a competitor at the Olympic Trials, I made the decision to be super focused and serious, and I played that role the whole week before I competed. The problem? It wasn't me. I see athletes that do this… they walk around with a scowl on their face and it's as if they look right through people because they don't notice anyone or anything, they are that focused. So I tried to be that person because I figured that's what you are supposed to do when you are really serious about what you are trying to do. But it takes far too much energy to be something you're not and when you spend energy "trying", it doesn't work. I need to enjoy what I'm doing. I need to have a smile on my face during my warm-up and laugh if someone says something funny. I need to acknowledge people who say hello to me and wish me well, because this is who I am. I feel most confident when I am excited and relaxed.

*Believe your toolbox is full: Have you ever tried to cram for a test? Stayed up all night trying to learn things you didn't bother to learn throughout the semester? It sucks and it's not a very good way to prepare for something important. It is easy to get to this point and start to worry about all the things you still need to improve and technique you wish you had. But at this point, as my college coach would so eloquently tell me, It is what it is. I am not going to improve physically any more these last few days and I can't waste precious energy worrying about all the things I wish I did better or try and learn something I haven't quite been able to in the last four years. At this point the best thing you can do for yourself is trust in your toolbox and believe wholeheartedly that your preparation for this moment is enough. Celebrate what you have and forget about what you may not have. It can't help you to worry about anything at this point, so don't. My body is as healthy as it is going to be and so it is healthy enough. My technique is as on point as it's going to be, and so it is great. And so for the million and one times I am going to be asked over the next few days "Are you ready?", my answer will continue to be a resounding YES.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Worth It

This year I have done a lot of visualization and I have learned to embrace it as an important part of my mental training. When I first began, I had the hardest time and I felt like I could never keep my mind locked in on one thing or experience images vividly enough for it to be helpful.  But as with anything else, practice makes perfect--or at the very least it will make you not suck at it.  One of the visualization exercises I do involves picturing myself achieving my biggest athletic goal and experiencing how it feels to have already achieved that goal. I see myself in that place, down to the expression on my face, the tears in my eyes, my body posture, and what is running through my mind.  I picture the people around me and how I interact with them, and the congratulatory responses from all my friends and family.  I do my best to make that moment as real as possible, so that I get to the point that I feel as if it's really happened.  Every time I do this exercise it brings me to tears…but they are tears of joy.  I cry from sheer happiness of actually feeling like I accomplished my goal, and that's when I know I'm visualizing right. And then I ask myself one simple question…

Was it worth it?

And then I become even more emotional. Without a doubt the answer is yes and there is a deep satisfaction in experiencing what success will be like. Now I take the exercise one step further and I let my mind retrace all the steps it took to get to my moment of greatness.  The successes, the failures, the times of self-doubt, the voices of all the people who said I should have given up and moved on by now, the moments I am most proud of--all of it.   My career has been a pretty long one so this part of the visualization process can take a while sometimes. But what I do is work my way backwards and look at my journey from the vantage point of having made it to my destination and all the steps that led me to my achievement.

What I am seeing is my magnificent view at the top of my proverbial mountain and then letting myself remember the grueling hike it took to get there. And when I look back at my climb up--when the path seemed too steep but I kept on going anyway… or the times when the path came to a dead end and I had to search for another way…or even when I was knocked all the way back down to the bottom and had to go back and start from the beginning… I see my journey through the lens of where it has brought me and I know that I am so glad that I stuck with it. This exercise has given my mind a path to follow and made the outcome of all my hard work very real to my brain. It feels like my reality and all I need to do now is go out and have a deja vu experience.

Part of achieving your goal is actually being able to show that you accomplished what you set out to do. But the other part of attaining, the part that completes the magnificent view if you will, and even contributes to it's magnificence, is what happens to you on the inside and who you become. And that's the part that happens through the dead ends, the falls, and all the times you will yourself to continue. When you do this visualization exercise right, you see the whole picture and you appreciate your destination even more because it is firmly connected and intertwined with your journey.

*I wanted to elaborate on some of the specific experiences and memories that I remember during this trip down memory lane but this blog has gotten too long already, so perhaps you can look for it later this week in another posting. I don't know if anyone else would find it as interesting as I do, but at the very least it's a good snapshot for anyone who might be interested.