Background: Last summer I finished 7th at the World Championships in the 5k, tying the highest finish ever by an American, becoming a favorite to make the 2012 Olympic Team. I’m 30, and have qualified for three previous Olympic Trials without making it.
This is a little view into my world this year, told in brief snapshots from the 24th of every month between Worlds last September and today. This year I hoped to write a story that featured the flawless preparation and rock hard confidence of a woman on a mission, concluding, of course, on the medal stand in London with a tearful National Anthem and lots of medal-biting in photos. What I have is an unfinished story of chasing a dream, of adaptation, of being stretched and pulled. This is a story about rewriting the story in response to life, one ridiculous month at a time.
The Evolution of a Dream
September 24th: Right after finishing 7th in the World
Only four more places and I can get an Olympic Medal! All I need is strength. I can’t wait to get home and train for the NY marathon so I can be stronger for next year! This is my year baby! Whoop whoop!
October 24th: 2 weeks before NY Marathon
Holy crap my knee has stabbing pain, but I’m in the best shape of my life so I’ll go to NY and do my best and then heal up and train for the Olympic Trials so I can kick ass in London! Yeah!
November 24th: The end of my season break.
Day one of training for the Olympics? That’s right, I’m gonna kill it! I’m a beast! Oh wait my knee still doesn’t work. Shit. It’s IT Band syndrome. Ummm…rest alone isn’t going to heal this one. Ok, let’s revise the plan and take more time off running and do aggressive rehab! And then I’ll train hard and be extra rested and kick ass in London. Yeah!
December 24th: Six months before the Olympic Trials
I’m out of running shape but I’m SUPER strong from rehab and all this massage is going to keep me as loose as a goose! Flexibility…check! There’s still plenty of time. Weaknesses are basically gone but stuck at 25 miles a week. Cortisone injection will put me over the top and I can train hard for six months and kick ass in London. Yeah! Keep it positive!
January 24th: Rain, rain, rain.
WTF. I’m freaking out here. Why can’t I just have one season where I can train for the whole time?! Whaaaahhh! This was supposed to be my flawless year. Don’t I deserve it? I’m doing everything in my power and still can’t get over the hump with this knee! Damn it Fleshman! Get a hold of yourself. Nobody “deserves” anything. You trained an abbreviated season last year. You’ll just have to do it again, but this year you are stronger. Focus on the now. Now I need Kleenex. F&%*. The box is empty.
February 24th: Slipping away
Gotta adjust the plan. Let go of the Olympic Medal; let’s just try to squeeze by and make the team. I can’t run now but I can do this. Just put my head down and cross train hard and stay fit and then I’ll come back running and get in shape for the trials and make that damn team. Ok cross training plan…Can’t aqua jog. Can’t bike. Thank God ElliptiGo doesn’t hurt or I’ll have to resort to swimming full time!
March 24th: 12 weeks to go. In Phoenix for treatment on IT Band.
Now ElliptiGo hurts. I can’t believe this. Did someone just punch me in the stomach? Damn you IT Band. Looks like it’s swim or perish (I stare at pool for indefinite amount of time) ARGH! Why can’t I just quit?! Just go get some fancy goggles, Jesse’s lucky swim cap, a fast Nike two-piece and try not to think about it. People do this all the time. Swimming is a thing. Do it.
April 24th: 8 weeks remaining. After a few weeks in Phoenix seeing Dr. John Ball.
Halelujah! Can’t run slow but I can sprint pain free. Time to start sprinting! It feels so good to run, even if it’s for one minute at a time with walk breaks! Surely this means my knee will be better any day now. Any day. Not much time to get ready for the trials, but eight weeks isn’t impossible, especially once I’m able to start doing easy runs. Any day now.
May 24th: Four weeks left.
I can ElliptiGo and bike again, but still can’t just go out for an easy run or warmup jog before a workout. If I decide to go through with this, I’ll definitely be the only chick at the Trials power-walking her warmup! Ha! Ugh. Really? Ok.
Every three days I hit the track and it’s basically all out, and the other days I cross train. Can someone really run the Olympic Trials off 10 miles a week? Training manuals have long ago been thrown out the window here. What the f%!* am I doing?! What’s the point? Am I only doing this because of momentum? Being positive and being delusional are two different things. This has to be about more than the Olympics or there is no point racing. Is there more to the Olympic Trials than the Olympics?
June 24th: The day before the 5k prelim at the Olympic Trials:
I’m still here. My spikes are loaded. My Nike uniform packed. The harder you grab onto sand, the faster it falls through your fingers. Relax the grip. I’m still here. I’m racing. Why?
Because I can.
Because it’s on my home track.
Because I want to see how the story turns out.
Because there is no reason this can’t be really fun.
Because I want to set the world record for fastest 5k on least weekly mileage.
When you recognize that failing doesn’t make you a Failure, you give yourself permission to try all sorts of things.
C for Courage, ya’ll. Put it up!
Thanks to everyone for the support on ALF, twitter, facebook, email…this year had high potential to be a shit sandwich without you, but strangely, it’s been pretty awesome.