I've been putting this off for awhile now. I'm uncertain as to whether it's taken me this long to write any reflections on the Olympic Trials because I have been incredibly busy, or because I still haven't sorted out exactly how I feel about it all.
It is with mixed emotions that I concurrently celebrated my success and accepted ultimate failure.
As the final results show, I ended up placing 7th in the final of the 800m, and was a semifinalist in the 1500m as well. It has been a big goal of mine since I graduated college to make the final at an outdoor US Championship meet. It may not sound like that big of an accomplishment just to make the final, but when you have to run through two back-to-back rounds just to get the opportunity to contend for a top three finish, it requires a lot of strength, good tactical running, and a fair amount of luck. A lot of great athletes made the final, but a whole slew of incredible athletes missed out as well, so I was honored and proud just to have made it that far.
On the other hand, in an Olympic Year, the final isn't good enough. If you make the final, you earn the opportunity to realistically dream about making The Team. Having four people between myself and London is a tough disappointment, but not as tough as one of my very good friends in the 800m, Molly Beckwith, who placed 4th, and had about a hundredth of a second separate her from the opportunity of becoming an Olympian. I think all of us in the final who didn't make the team feel that bitter taste of loss.
But then I go full circle, and realize, yes, it is an accomplishment to make a final in any year, but it is ESPECIALLY great to make it in an Olympic Year, when the competition is about as steep and deep as it ever gets!
So this is the see-saw of emotions I faced coming home from Eugene, as friends and family congratulated me with question marks written on their face, as if to say, "I think you did a great job, but are you happy?" The answer, of course, is yes and no, but if I look beyond the results of this one competition, and take my wonderful life as a whole, the answer is a resounding YES.
As with all things, I continue to approach life and running with a "moving forward" mentality, and I know I truly did move forward at the Trials. I think I also turned a few heads, competing in both the 800m and 1500m to display my range of abilities, and perhaps a glimpse of my future in the longer event. By the time I got to the 1500m semifinal, I was starting to feel the race fatigue accumulating, so my race wasn't that pretty in terms of placing results. However, I still have to be encouraged by the fact that I ran only 2 seconds slower than my lifetime PR in my 5th race in 7 days! I know I am in much better 1500m shape than the results show, I just need to get in a fresh race sometime soon to prove it to myself.
So where do I go from here? In the past couple years I've headed straight out to Europe to continue racing after the US Championships are over. This year, I am excited about the opportunity to stay home, train a little bit harder again, and then try heading back to Europe after the Olympics for a late-season racing schedule in August-September.
In the meantime, this week is going to be the week of speaking engagements! Tonight Ben and I are co-collaborating a presentation at a distance running clinic in Eagan, then we fly out to NYC tomorrow for me to speak at a sales conference on Monday where they are using my Big Ten 600m video footage as a metaphor to keep pressing on if sales are low. As long as we're getting a free trip to New York, Ben and I are excited to utilize this opportunity to see Wicked on Broadway, and catch a bunch of other touristy sights while we're there. Then when we return, I'll speak at the U of M Running Camp on Wednesday and Carrie Tollefson's camp on Thursday!! OH BOY! It sounds like a lot, but I truly enjoy getting the opportunity to share my experiences and advice with others, and feel like maybe I'm making a difference.
After all, no matter what big teams I make (or don't make), my primary goal still is to utilize and refine this gift God has given me, and share it with others, so that I may serve as a window to Him.
I especially feel a sense of duty to share the good things about the true nature of my sport in a time where there seems to be a lot of political turmoil surrounding us. This year at the Olympic Trials, more than at any other Championship I have attended, I got a sense that people were unhappy with our national track and field governing body. There was a lot of grumblings going on about unfair treatment to athletes and interpretation of rules, and the conflict of interest USA Track and Field has by being associated with just one brand. I'm not saying I haven't noticed these issues, or grumblings before, obviously these things have been in discussion for awhile. It just seemed to me that the public outcry is getting louder, and change must be imminent. I am not about to say that I have all the answers, because I don't, but as an athlete, I do care about protecting the virtue of our sport and seeing things resolved so that we can all worry about more important things than what logo is on our uniforms. A revolution seems to be coming, and I hope to be a voice for good clean competition, fair and unbending rules that protect the rights of athletes who have all trained hard for their competitive opportunities, and finding ways to help our country see how cool the sport of track and field is- in hopes that we can gain further support and attention on amazing feats of the human body and heart, rather than doping scandals and dates with celebrities.
More on this issue to come in future (hopefully not the distant future!!) posts.