Tag: heptathlon

Trackies go to a Basketball Game

It was really cool competing in the stadium last night! The lights made it as bright as day (and as hot) and the seats were surprisingly full. The sound pouring down to the track surface swelled to a movie-worthy roar whenever a Chinese athlete cleared the bar in the men’s high jump, or moved up to lead a middle distance race. I found my eyes flitting all over, from the crowds to the races to the video camera gliding by overhead and the little flock of birds restlessly hanging around the field that probably nested in the walls and whom we were keeping up past their bedtimes. In hindsight, I was likely a little tense and more in an observing mode than an attack mode. I am glad to say I was successful in fully taking in the entire experience, but as is the case with most things, a fine balance must be achieved, and will be achieved come the start of the heptathlon on Friday!

So in lieu of a long jump final tonight, I joined a group of other athletes and went to watch team Canada play basketball. We missed the single “spectator” bus from the athlete’s village so had to carve our own path…turns out we’re pretty much experts at it.

We were only gone a few hours but it felt like days…

I love hummingbirds!

Hit the ground running, indeed!

I had a great time in Arizona.  Good competition, good company, and a heat wave that brought the temperatures from an average of 74 at this time of year to mid 90’s both days of competition!  Appreciated even though I was required to stay in the shade under coach’s orders…of course while coach Vickie sunbathed by the pool.  Maybe one day I’ll be in her position…

However, if I wasn’t in the shade I wouldn’t have met my new hummingbird friend!  I got these awesome shoes just before I left…

New shoes! A little bit dirty from running hills yesterday...

…and as I was sitting quietly before warming up for long jump on day 2, a curious little buddy came zipping by.  It checked out my shoes from a distance for a couple moments before coming down within reaching distance!  It circled and hovered for a good 5 minutes before an approaching friend of mine sent it back into the trees.  Immediately before all of this, a unicyclist rode by balancing a huge pack on his back and a big box in his arms!  Don’t worry folks, I picked up a camera today and I’ll be ready next time I’m in Tucson…and elsewhere!

As for the meet itself, you can find full results here if you’re interested.  I scored my second highest point total ever, 5284pts, scoring higher only when I was set to peak at National Championships last summer.  I’m very pleased with my results, considering I’m not planning to peak for another two and a half months!  I threw a personal best in javelin, right-handed (for the record), and achieved just short of personal bests in most of the other events.  Shot put has been going very well in practice, so it’s only a matter of loosening up in competition and letting my technique take over from robot-girl, who seems to come out with the competition tape measure!

The final event, an 800m run, was an adventure too…remember the bear I mentioned, that sneaks up and jumps on your back for the final stretch?  Well, I should definitely have taken that bear bait out of my pocket.  After going through 600m right on target in about 1:34 (just over 31 seconds per 200m), I finished in 2:16.71, meaning a final 200m in 42 seconds!  I remember looking over to the grass just next to the track and thinking, “I’m not moving”!!  Good motivation to evade the bear in the future, let me tell you!

One of my training partners, Damian, competed in the men’s decathlon and absolutely rocked it.  In his third dec ever he scored 7632pts, winning the event handily.  Congrats to Damian!

University of Arizona
University of Arizona sport facilities - bursts of green in the rocky desert

I’m looking forward to heading back to the same hotel and track facility for a training camp in a couple weeks.  It’s a great camp that I’ve attended the last two years: warm, dry climate, hotel with a pool, a fun mix up of training partners, and fresh eyes to share advice with my coach.  Oh, and water/dust-proof camera to document the entire experience!

I saved a baby!

…in my dream, that is.

I’ve had a cold brewing over the last few days.  It started with a heavy, tight chest, proceeded to a little congestion, slight headache.  Finally, with chest burning, incessant coughing at night, achy, I succumbed to it.  I’ve been drinking fluids and resting up; I’ve read a few books this week – The Hunger Games are quite an interesting trilogy.  After this morning it’s probably apt to include “wallowing” as part of my cold regimen, too.  That is, until I hunted around on the Life is Good website this morning (over some tea with added lemon juice…apparently the acidity is helpful in alleviating congestion) and allowed the mantra to sink in.  Life really is good.  Armed with these words and yet another tea I soaked in a warm bath before cuddling up for a nap.

And what a nap it was!

I woke upon successfully reviving a tiny baby.  I’ll spare you the dramatic details but I remember somebody I can’t identify working away at another little life behind me, while a radio voice narrated the unravelling of the events as part of a news story.  I needed some thread and eventually found some from an unlikely source, and interestingly, upon hearing the voice say there was a shortage of such thread in the wider world, my friend and I gathered a whole bunch and sent it off.

I go through phases where I’ll remember every dream for several nights, and then not a one.  I look into them when it fancies me, usually when I’ve been dwelling on something and have naturally been looking into nearly everything for an answer or guidance.  I think all dreams have meaning.  Some may be a reiteration or verification of a previously understood concept, but some hold just the ticket to help you to where you want to go.

The thing to keep in mind when elucidating the meaning of a dream is that it’s YOUR dream.  All the little details are created by you, for you.  So when wondering what finding a robin’s egg, or bumping into an old friend, or saving a baby means, it just takes a little question to yourself to get an accurate answer.  There are many dream dictionaries that may offer some guidance, however contradictions often abound and I think the dictionaries work based on the beliefs of the general population, not the individual.

For instance, according to one dream dictionary, seeing a dog symbolizes “intuition, loyalty, generosity…” while a black dog in a dream symbolizes “the dark side of someone close to you being revealed”.  Many people may hold fear of black dogs, but to someone that grew up with a lovable black lab, it could be a widely inaccurate interpretation.  There is no better interpretation than your own!

So back to saving babies.  To me, babies symbolize new beginnings and wondrous opportunities.  Now, without trying to give too much thought to it, I’ve been concerned with contracting a cold so near to a competition, specifically when I’ve been anticipating coming out of the gate flying, eager to let the winter of hard training speak for itself.  Then add that this is the penultimate year to the Olympics, and you got yourself a dream baby.  The whole idea of my track goals, and all that achieving those can bring about, in this time of worry came across as one very tiny fragile baby in my dream.

Dreaming that I saved it, and further that I harvested lots of thread to send off to others trying to save their babies, puts my waking mind at ease!  The zen saying that “no snowflake ever falls in the wrong place” comes to mind.  I lost sight of this idea in worrying about how a cold may negatively affect my performance next week.  But holding success next week as a goal, as an unwavering projected outcome of my efforts, this cold must be exactly what I need to get there.  Full stop.  I should be wondering how a cold may positively affect my performance next week!  I’ve been resting like I certainly wouldn’t rest otherwise, I’m ultra hydrated, I’ve fit in a healthy dose of reflection over the last few days – plus a bit of a reality check in terms of this track meet simply being a track meet, penultimate year or not – and it sounds like a perfect pre-heptathlon prescription to me!

If you remember any cool and weird dreams, I’d love to hear them!

Life is good!

800m – the hunt

In light of competing yesterday, I’m going to pass on writing about running long jump for a little while.  My long jump competition was very…interesting.  It is early in the season and I haven’t done much technical work yet, but I still thought that jumping would, as usual, be like riding a bike…each spring I just hop back on and go full tilt like we weren’t apart for 6 months.  Nope, not even slightly similar this time.  Although to be fair, we’ve never been apart for this long before.  Every single thing about my jumping felt completely foreign to me, from my approach, to the take off, to my hitch and landing.  I ate sand on one landing.  It was definitely humbling and a little frustrating, but on the other hand it’s exciting.  Although I’ve (momentarily) forgotten what it feels like to do the things I’ve always done right, I’ve also forgotten my bad habits!  So I’m looking forward to starting from scratch, with only good ingredients baked in!

While long jump sits back and relaxes for a little while, I’ll instead move on to the wolf inspired 800m run, the final event of the heptathlon.

Running has always felt natural, and as a kid I regularly competed in the middle distance events – the 800m and 1500m – and the high jump.  Odd combination, I know, although some coaches just nod knowingly upon hearing this…something about the precision of the footplant (not wild power of the sprinter nor the slower ponderous nature of the distance runner – somewhere in between).  Anyway, so while most multi eventers dread the 800m, I kind of look forward to it.  Experiencing lactic acid is a privilege…we get to be intimate with the lovely bear on our backs,the heavy, tree trunk legs and burning lungs that take over on the final stretch; it’s something to be embraced!!

So as the time for the 800m rolls around, we’ve got six events behind us.  Yesterday saw hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m.  Earlier today was long jump and javelin.  After sitting quietly in the shade for a few minutes in the company of our water bottles, we basically slip on our racing spikes and head to the track, a seventh warm up not really in any of our agendas.  At bigger meets, like national championships, the authorities are quite particular about who can gain access to the track while other events are going on, but multi eventers somehow are exempt from these rules…  We head to the infield, do a few drills and some strides as we watch whatever else is going on.

We’re up next on the track and the announcer sums up the “grueling competition” of our last couple of days, making us feel a little weary yet, through the admiration in her voice, capable of anything.  We toss our warm up gear aside and shake out our legs anxiously, generally wishing we could somehow skip the next couple of minutes of our lives.  At this point I, of course, feel similarly; embracing the pain of almost sprinting for over 2 mins does not make it any less painful.  But alas, we’re called to the line, thought bubbles popping out of the air over our heads like in the cartoons.  It’s time to run.  We all scoot up to delicately put our toes just before the line, and crouch over, awaiting the gun.  This is where the wolf arrives.  When everyone is still, the gun sounds and we’re off, a quick burst of speed generates a sense of urgency, and helps in the jostle for a good position as we go into the first corner.

This brings me to a small side story…  We’re at les Jeux de la Francophonie 2009 in Beirut, Lebanon.  Throughout our stay it wasn’t uncommon to hear popping coming down from the hills, especially around sunset.  It didn’t sound anything like gunfire in the movies, but gunfire, we were told, it was.  During javelin on the second day of the hep it was closer sounding and unmistakably recognizable as gunshots.  So much so that as we took off to start the 800, a second shot went off and we all returned to the line assuming someone had committed a false start.  We looked over, however, to see the officials all looking at each other in confusion…the shot having come from outside the stadium!

Anyway, we take off, settling into each of our practiced race paces, feeling strong.  The first 200m flies by and we round the second corner, approaching the more populated bleachers of the home stretch for the first time.  With that straightaway comes a rush of thoughts…firstly, “I’m starting to feel it in my legs…” then “oh man, a whole nother lap to go?!?”.  Soon this is followed by, “only a lap to go?!?!”, as you hear the bell ring and your split time, and it’s like your head is thrown back in time to a training session where you have one lap left and nothing to lose.

That brief lapse in focus, for me, is the defining factor in the 800.  It’s not a long race, but juuuust long enough to allow time to think about everything.  Solution: either keep from thinking (possible, though unlikely), or ensure your thoughts are constructive (I came across the phrase, “I like myself” in Brian Tracy’s Psychology of achievement CDs.  It was weird at first, yelling that aloud in the car as I listened, but it’s an empowering tool!  …and kinda funny).  Of course looking to the wolf is a great alternative…

So corner number three, back in the groove, on the scent of a delicious elk, definitely thinking about changing gears, but holding in the reins a little…accelerating off the corner though, attacking the final 300m.  A contained attack, stealthy, maintaining form and lucidity.  It’s the attack engaged when approaching the now uneasy elk before it makes the decision to run, when as long as you look like nothing more than a bizarre slowly growing shape, not yet identifiable as an advancing predator, you can gain an advantage.

Into the final corner the kick is well established, the chase is on.  We round the seemingly endless corner to the literally endless straightaway.  The line does approach, but so slowly it is barely noticable.  At this point the bear is usually latched on tight, but sometimes it is a baby bear and the core can hold up under the added weight of it on your back.  With luck there is someone just ahead to chase, to initiate that instinct to disregard the signals your limbs are shooting to your brain because this chase means surviving.  Despite doubt of it not getting any nearer, the finish line is reached.

No matter the results of the competition, the post heptathlon high is glorious!  Crossing that line means an immediate (but temporary) pain storm, and finally setting our minds free to feast on whatever they desire, like a ravished wolf pack feasting on it’s delicious hard earned meal.  The past few days saw a strict mental diet of track events, nutrition, hydration, and maybe a few cloud animals when available.  But now we’re on top of the world!  A great feeling on your own, but it’s especially enjoyable to experience this feeling of immortality with competitors who instatly turn into comrades!

Inspiration II: The Wolf

Dedicated to my pack…

As early as I can remember (earlier, even, than my earliest canine sketch), I would always look out the car window at my wolf friends running along beside me, smiling at the world as they went.

They would be easily clearing snowbanks and fire hydrants, loping around parked cars and children, who would be standing at attention and staring as we interrupt road hockey games in the suburbs;  weaving gracefully through the oblivious throngs downtown, claws clicking on the pavement, patiently waiting with us at red lights before trotting on; and tirelessly charging along the transcanada highway or the 401…I’d sometimes catch glimpses of them through the forests, other times I’d track them trekking single file through a field half a kilometre away.  Needless to say they were always happiest in the countryside along the highway, exploring, following smells and whims.  But no matter where, they were always running, and always smiling.

I’m sure anyone who has seen a happy dog knows of the smile.  Alert at first – focused eyes, brows poised, closed mouth with tight lips but loose jowls, ears flexed and precisely directed, and nose quivering – all melting into blissful momentary reflection.  Reflection, yet amazingly still ultimately present in the moment.  The nose tips up in silent laughter, ears swivel back unintimidatingly, lips loosen and part, freeing the tongue while cheeks tighten, and eyes relax, eyelids nearing each other, completing the epitome of contentment.  Equally as important as the expression itself is the lightning fast return of the alertness given the slightest impetus for a new reaction. (As a side note: I’m going to guess that 2/3 of the people who read that, attempted the “dog smile”…)

It’s hard to explain but everything about the wolf speaks to me.  The stealth, strength, endurance, stillness, beauty, mystery, family values, instinctual, nomadic ability to survive, existing perfectly in its niche in the environment.  In fact, I think my respect for the animal runs deeper than my respect for…well, gravity (which, by the way, I don’t believe is entirely immutable).  Similar to gravity, as another basic law of my universe I expected a deep respect for wolves to be shared by all, at least to some degree.  However, I was genuinely surprised to relatively recently discover otherwise, that people actually harbour fear of wolves!  As Bertrand Russel said, “he who fears an animal will only see its threatening behaviour”.  I encourage everyone to choose to respect and you will see much to warrant it!

It’s funny that the characteristics that likely inspire fear in many people are precisely those that inspire me athletically: the predatory nature, chasing as if in a life or death circumstance, eyes on the prize with nothing else of any importance in the moment.  The focus, drive, and courage of the hunting wolf are precisely what I attempt to emanate in athletics.

I’m not suggesting necessarily that everyone must love wolves, but I am suggesting that everyone would do well to love and be open to learning from the natural world.  I’ve had some awesome teachers throughout my schooling, but I assure you, none have been quite like the wolf!

pencil crayon on board mounted canvas - Jan 2011

“In wildness is the salvation of the world.” – Henry David Thoreau

Inspiration: Accomplishment and Giving Back

Sometimes it’s enough to just know something with your heart.  But sometimes knowing the whys behind it can put your mind at ease too.  After graduating and making the bitter-sweet transition away from the university track world, I found myself with a lot of questions, including wondering about the continuing role of athletics in my life.  Despite my love for the sport and the right feeling it gives me, I found myself wondering why, out of all the other things in the world that I love doing, I should focus my energy on track?

The simple yet surprisingly meaningful answer is, “because I can”.  I wrongfully assumed that being a full time athlete meant being so at the exclusion of being other things.  Seeing that written down, it’s apparent that the prospect is a foolish one.  We can, and actually should be and do everything we desire.  Personally I have found sparks of concentrated interest in art, nature, science, space, flying, and others…heck I could throw in cow milking, if I were to so desire!  No two things are mutually exclusive unless we believe they are.  I was initially afraid of committing to track because I thought it meant closing other doors I really wanted to explore.  But it doesn’t!  I can achieve my goals in track while doing everything that I love, so I do.

Another answer: I’ve come to realize that it’s the emotions that are important, not necessarily the means we find to experience them.  For example, I think a major reason that I enjoy track is because of the feeling of accomplishment I get when I master a skill, finish a tough workout on top, or achieve a new personal best.  Realizing that the accomplishment is what is truly meaningful to me, adds even more meaning to the means of achieving that accomplishment (WOW that’s a lot of ‘mean’s, I like it!).

So the feeling of accomplishment gives athletics added value to me, but I also recently realized that the potential for philanthropy is huge as an athlete, and also a personal draw for me to athletics.  I really can’t put my finger on why sport is so valuable in society; why athletes are such widely regarded role models.  Any ideas?  Is it the commitment to something, specifically a dream?  Is it being involved in the thrill of competition?  Does it remind people of their desire to move and be free and fit?  Regardless, athletes are held in high esteem and are often given the opportunity to offer whatever insights they have discovered to many, many people.  For instance Andre Agassi describes the school he has founded, the passion he has for assisting others, and the influence over people that was provided to him for being a great athlete in his sport in his startling autobiography Open.  It really gave me an idea of where an athletic career could turn.  Many athletes are involved in foundations and organizations and are really using their notoriety to make differences.

Another amazing example of athletes doing big things is Athletes for Hope (coincidently, of which Andre Agassi is a founder).  I have yet to really dig into it, but the misison of the group of professional athletes involved is to “educate, encourage and assist athletes in their efforts to contribute to community and charitable causes, to increase public awareness of those efforts, and to inspire others to do the same”.  I’m excited to learn more!

Philanthropy is important to a lot of athletes, and the fact that something about it strikes a chord with me gives athletics even that much more meaning to me.  I not only strive to achieve the goals I set for myself, I strive also to accomplish big things so as to gain a platform from which to give back to a huge degree.

And just to inspire any people reading, athletes and non-athletes alike, here are some wise words from Steve Nash:

“Athletes are not obligated to give back.  PEOPLE are obligated to give back.” 🙂