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Olympics and races

August 13, 2012

As the Olympics come to a close, my family gathered around the closing ceremonies as I type, I am once again reminded of how I’m largely indifferent to them.

I have nothing against the Olympics, and you’ll find no criticism of them from me. But in the last two weeks as I’ve buzzed over all the news stories, I’ve come to realize that I’m not necessarily indifferent to them, I actually don’t like to watch them. Instead of focusing on the great stories of people overcoming impossible obstacles and pushing their bodies to the absolute limit through great self-discipline, I find myself instead distracted and overly saddened by the agony of defeat.  The stories that stick with me are about those who trained hard for four years only to be disqualified by a false start, or who lose out due to a trip or a crash because of a second miscalculation in a long, hard-fought race. Though I know the athletes compete in many other races and matches other than the Olympics, training for four years only to have a tiny mistake or lack of judgment seemingly erase all that hard work is unbearable to watch.

Perhaps I’m sensitive to these ‘losers’ because I’m one. I stink under stress.  It’s why I used to love roller derby practices and even scrimmages, but when it came to playing in a bout, the only consistency in my playing was my inconsistency. When it comes time to put my training into practice, I overthink it, stare doe-eyed at my surroundings, and think about the effect my poor performance will have while I’m actually performing. Some people thrive during competition, they exceed their training thresholds and find a nirvana-esque place in the zone, and as I gaze jealously at their confidence, I can see that all else has fallen away from their minds save the thrill of victory coming zooming their way.

So it’s no surprise that I don’t really want to do my marathon on September 30th.  I’m all for running 26.2 miles (or 13.1 miles, as my nagging ankle injury and swollen knee are urging me to do), but not, you know, ‘on cue.’  See, some days I am tired, a little dehydrated perhaps, and not in the mood to run. I sit in my car, Nikes mocking me as I  think of excuses not to do it. Then I bang out an amazing run, feeling that wonderful athlete feeling of mind and body acting as one, everything working in exquisite harmony.  Other days, no matter how much I prepare, or psyched myself up, every step is a chore and I plod through, staring at my runkeeper or Nike+, willing the numbers to move, and counting how many steps it takes to get one tenth of a mile underfoot. Then counting, desperately, until the numbers creep up one by one.

Which ‘me’ will show up on September 30th? I have no idea and I have no control over it. I know avid runners say to track food, water, etc to help fine-tune these variables, and while I haven’t done anything that organized, believe me, when every step is a struggle I pass the time by working through what I did and didn’t do or consume in the past 48 hours. And similarly, when I have a great run I think about what I did so I could emulate it for future run preparation.  Still, no clear pattern has emerged. Sometimes my body just wants to run, and sometimes it just…doesn’t.

13.1 miles I can probably plod through. 26.2 I cannot.  If I start and fewer things fall into place than out of it, I don’t know if I can will myself all the way.  And this is why I don’t want to run on the 30th. And this is why I don’t like to watch the Olympics.

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