This Gift or This Curse?

imageI will start by admitting my guilty pleasure: I am a big WICKED (the musical) fan. I know every word of every song, and love to play it extremely loud as I sing my heart out.  There. It’s out there. I said it.  Popular. Dancing Through Life. For Good. And…The Wizard and I.

The songs also play in my head during workouts. Today, as I trudged up a never-ending hill on my bike in 95 degree heat…it was a line from The Wizard and I that I could not get out of my head, “this gift or this curse, that I have inside..maybe at last I’ll know why”

I think this line started brewing from a comment my brother made yesterday while we were running. We decided to set out for our longest trail run, despite the oppressive heat. While running along at mile 13ish of 15ish, my brother was saying that we should give ourselves credit. Running 15ish miles in 90+ degree weather and only walking one hill was something to be proud of. He followed this up with, “we have a gift” ….I mumbled, “or curse?”

What did he mean by that statement? We both have been able to excel in multiple areas without doing the excessive training that most do. We can run 15 miles on a very hot day without much training under our belt. We can train for a marathon for half the time as most and do just as well, if not better. For me, I can play golf once a year and still shoot in the mid to low 40’s. I can join a volleyball team after only having played a few times and be asked if I played in college. I am naturally just an athletic person. I was a 3 sport all-conference/all-state athlete in High-School & a collegiate basketball player. However, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”  And mental toughness, I believe, is 75% of the battle.

On top of having a lot of natural athletic ability, I also work VERY hard.  I may not train as often as some people, but when I am on the trails, the bike, etc I am giving it EVERYTHING I have. I am looking at each training moment as a way to become a better competitor. The harder I work when training, the easier race time will be.

When I first started racing I would regularly place in my age group, however, now, with some experience and better training, I am imagestarting to place Top 3 Overall.

A gift….or a curse?

I love the idea that I have the ability to be elite. My brother said to me on the trail yesterday, “you have to start thinking differently. You have to start realizing that you could be one of the best around.” Now, that’s a pretty amazing thing. It’s also a pretty scary thing.  Scary as hell.  To be the best, it takes A LOT of hard work. Training in ways I haven’t even touched upon. It becomes a lot of pressure. It becomes fun in a different sort of way. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a top finisher at a race?

BUT, it also becomes more stressful. To commit to TRYING to be one of the best already sets you up to possibly fail.   Isn’t it just so much easier to “kind of” train, then finishing at an average time is expected?  Wouldn’t it be nice to just start at the middle or back of the pack and just enjoy the race…the only expectation to finish? I may never know what that feels like. I’m an all out competitor. If I enter a race it is to RACE. Otherwise, it’s a training run.

A gift or a curse…?

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Why Competition Makes Me Cry

hard workOne thing that has been on my mind a lot lately is competition, and the emotions that go along with it.  There are a few things that have sparked this in the last week:

1.) Watching a Michael Jordan cry like a baby while clutching the NBA Championship Trophy.

2.) Reading a letter from my Aunt that was written for my High School Basketball Senior Day.

3.) Hearing a friend say she “doesn’t understand why anyone would cry at the end of a race.

I could go on for days on this subject, and I hope I can find the limited amount of words to get my feelings out.  First, I have to say that the emotion that is involved with competition is what I miss most on a daily basis, and what I crave to seek as much as possible in my current life.  What you may not know about me is I was a 3 sport athlete in High School & went on to play collegiate basketball.  I traveled since the age of 12 all over the country to play in AAU Basketball Tournaments, learning at a young age the the price of hard work is worth the reward.

So, here I am at the age of 32, still trying to find my way in an unknown world.  A world without practice, coaches, teammates, and games.  For 20 years, my life revolved around one thing: competition. It was why I slept, why I woke up, why I ate, why I lived.  I had a team around me, working towards the same goal.  I had a family that surrounded me that threw there lives into my sports career.  They traveled all over the country, following my AAU, High School, and Collegiate career.  They saw the “behind the scenes”:  shoveling off the driveway to shoot my 100 free throws. Turning on the spotlight to work on my jumper until 11pm.  Doing my homework via flashlight in the car after softball game followed by AAU basketball practice.  They saw all of this, therefore, when I lost, they lost.  When I cried, they cried.  They saw my hard work, and they knew it was for one reason….to excel at game time.  They felt each loss, and rejoiced in each win, because it wasn’t just the 40 minutes of the game we were feeling, it was the work that came before that game.  THIS is why I felt the tears Michael Jordan shed as he clutched that trophy.

This brings me to present day.  The one way I have found competition is through racing.  It will never be the same as basketball, but it at least gives me the idea of training hard for the end product: race day.  What this means is every training run, every minute spent cross training, this is done to get me ready for GAME TIME: race day.  So, as you cross the finish line of the race, your thoughts are not always on the race itself, but the work you did to get there.  The days you woke up early when you just wanted to sleep in.  The nights you skipped the bar with your friends so you could get up early for a training run.  Only you knew how hard you worked before and DURING the race, and when you cross that finish line the emotions flow.  THIS is why I cry at races.

One of the most emotional, energetic races I have ever attended was IRONMAN Lake Placid.    Why?  Because to compete and finish an event like this EVERY single person there COMMITTED to it.  Every person gave up so much, and gave so much.  To me, THIS is living.  And if you have never crossed a finish line with a lump in your throat, maybe you just aren’t emotional, but MAYBE you didn’t give it your EVERYTHING?!?!