I was surprised by some of the takeaways I’ve seen of a recent podcast and interview of mine: that I don’t have it all figured out, and that I’m still trying to find my groove. I didn’t expect to be perceived as unique or vulnerable in talking about how I continue to learn about my sport, or build a better relationship with my coach.
I don’t love the implication that in saying I don’t have all the answers, I’m admitting that I’m not great at what I do. I believe that the capacity to be always learning is a key factor that differentiates people who reach the top of their field.
It’s not that I don’t already know a lot about my training. I’m happy to geek out on any aspect (except maybe some specific workout where I turn off my mind and just let me coach tell me what to do). But I also know there is always more out there. Or some way to refine a system. Or some input that changes as I get older.
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And TBH, this perpetual student mindset is my “groove.” I would get bored without it. Insofar as boredom is a contributor to burnout, I believe the mindset in itself helps my longevity as an athlete.
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Expert status, mastery, they are not destinations, they are states of mind. So are relationships. I say I’m continuing to improve my relationship with my coach. In no way does that mean we don’t have a good one. I’m continuing to improve my relationship with my mother, and I’ve loved her my whole life. Relationships take active work. You should grow deeper understanding with someone the longer you know them. That is one reason this extra year of training for the Olympic summer has been a hidden gift.
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I fully expect to progress in the next year. But I will never progress to the point where I stop giving “vulnerable” interviews about how I’m “figuring it all out.” I guess I’m saying I have figured out all I need: The moment that I stop the beginner mindset, the moment I no longer want to learn or improve, is the moment I retire.
(For reference, podcast is Running on Om. I so enjoyed this discussion with Julia. And I do admit that I ramble around my point … I could probably work on that and seem more authoritative.)
When Cortney White shared this photo I was a little annoyed. In what world would I ever want to use an “ugly cry” picture. 😑January was so naive.
Joking aside. This week has been hard. Part of me hoped that if we shared enough memes, or found the perfect TikTok dance, the mood would stay light. We would make it through with mediocre social distancing, and come out the other side mostly unscathed. I deluded myself, and this week it’s sunk in. As my dad has been saying… this isn’t one blizzard, we are in it for the winter.
They announced that the Olympics are postponed for a year. At this moment all the focus needs to be on fighting the virus spread. I know that. But I wasn’t exactly stoic in my processing.
After the indoor track season, I started mapping out the 16 weeks until the Olympic Trials. I was grateful and excited, even joyous. After a long period of work, and near misses and mistakes, I had grown and incorporated new knowledge. I was healthy, having the time of my life, and the training of my life. I love that process of betterment. And I couldn’t wait to see what it might become. Of course, all the parts are still there. It’s just the schedule has changed.
But I’ve also known for a while that this would be my final Olympiad. I looked forward to exploring what it would mean to transition to a different career. And I’m not sure how the Olympics pushing back is going to affect that timing.
Top it off with all the financial unknowns. For an athlete, that looks like uncertainty with what this means for revenue streams, and if there will be opportunities to race, which impact exposure, sponsorships, and rankings.
I realize there are a lot of people in really tough situations. And public health is at risk, and the number one priority. I don’t mean this post to discount any of that.
I guess I’m just reaching out to the people who are scared or uncertain – about job security or finances; or dreams deferred, plans put on hold; health, safety, identity. I don’t know how to wrap up or when this will get better. I know connection matters. Even if it’s a connection over a million personal heartbreaks.
I still don’t know why it happened that way. I do know that life can go awry at any time for any reason. Or for no reason at all. Nothing is deserved. All we can do is make the most of opportunities to create meaning. When a door opens you recognize , and you bust through. And then you continue to work like hell.
I wrote that reflecting on my experience at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Back in early January, before Covid-19 was on anyone’s mind.
“I do know that life can go awry at any time for any reason. Or for no reason at all. Nothing is deserved.” Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so fucking psychic. 😏
The IOC announced they will have a decision on the fate and timing of the Tokyo Olympics in four weeks. There’s a lot up in the air right now. But the directives don’t really change.
All we can do is make the most of opportunities to create meaning. ✅
Continue to work like hell. ✅
Be ready for that opening. ✅
This painting is by the talented @gmilanesi I can’t find the original photographer.
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I’ve been doing so much better on tempo days, but today we were a bit higher elevation and it was a struggle from the start. I was emotional and wanted to cut the whole thing after I blew up on the tempo, but I jumped back in for the second part. So I guess I’ll call that the one positive for the day. Or at least a small redemption. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀
It is not upon you to finish the work; neither are you free to abstain from it.
I love this quote. I used to keep it pasted on my laptop screensaver. The internet tells me it comes from a section of the Talmud, in a commentary on Micah 6:8, about doing God’s work.
Maybe it’s a weird one to link to personal performance or athletics. Because isn’t the whole point to finish the job? But I find it particularly applicable when I’m anxious about how far I am from the end product, or dealing with a small setback.
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I’ve also seen it used in relation to activism. When the enormity of the goal gets overwhelming, it’s a reminder that there is power, and duty, in small daily acts.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8