Monday, January 16, 2012

Houston 2012: Olympic Trials recap

Warning, this is a long one. But there are lots of good pictures, so keep reading!
I think one of the reasons I am so strong mentally is because I can be so fragile physically. Most of my races have been fought with some kind of ailment: asthma, injury, GI distress, dizziness. It has been a rare occasion for me to race with a blank slate, the only concerns being what the day throws at me. Sunday was not a blank slate. My legs felt heavy from the start. My rib injury ached. The aid stations were too far apart. But, I was able to push through and run my goal pace. The discomfort was made easier by the enthusiasm of the huge crowds lining the streets. It was electric. I could not believe how many times I heard my name called, it was inspiring to know I had so many supporters out there.

Ok, so you know how your car has a check engine light that goes on before your car blows up? A warning signal to tell you, get the hell out right now, bad things are about to happen. My body does not have a check engine light. It blows up before I have a chance to make other plans. Out of nowhere, at mile 17, I started to vomit. For the next 2 miles, I continued to run/walk as I alternated between vomiting and dry heaving. That was all fine; I was prepared to run through it. What I couldn’t run through was the accompanying dizziness. I have dealt with paralyzing dizziness before and I have learned that I have two options, (a) stop and lie down until the dizziness passes (which can take several hours) or (b) keep going and pass out and get carted off the course in an ambulance (I have done that and it really sucks). Rather than have an unnecessarily dramatic exit off the course, I chose option (a).

And that is my tale of woe. There is a lot to be happy about, though, and that is what I am focusing on. Against all odds, I qualified for the trials. As I set new goals for myself over the years, I will remember this challenge and use it to get me through the rough patches, to know that it is possible to overcome the seemingly impossible.
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This is the very official looking credential.

The experience of the Olympic trials was amazing. The atmosphere was so much different than any of the previous trials I went to. This felt like a big deal. There was media hype. The hotel was decked out in trials posters. The hospitality suite was heavily guarded by armed police who only let in those individuals with proper credentials (ok, they weren't armed, but they were very strict). There were lots of athlete meals and functions. The athletes were made to feel important.


I do have to point out though, with all of the attention given to this race, why on earth didn’t NBC show it live?




Some memorable moments from the weekend:
  • Some of the Boulder crew before the race.
Colleen, JZ, Katie, Amanda
  • Instead of the XXL race shirt they handed out they should have given us shirts that read "I went to Olympic Trials and all I got is a crappy goodie bag"
Shirt, hat, plastic cup, pin, notebook: not very impressive
  • There were very strict uniform specifications. Only one logo per article of clothing and the logo had to fit into a very small rectangle. Everyone had to bring their race outfit and anything else they planned to wear race morning, including sweats, back packs, watches, sunglasses, to the officials so they could be checked. Anything that did not meet their standard had to be taped over. I am talking, tape over the teeny tiny little Garmin logo on my watch and the teeny tiny logo on my sunglasses and the very unfortunately huge Running Republic of Boulder logo on my top (luckily the race number covered it up). 
Very professional looking tape job
    • The athletes seem to enjoy a good arts and crafts project. The decorating of the water bottles was a BIG DEAL. There was a table set up with tape, pipe cleaner, and stickers, although most people brought their own materials. I came prepared with two types of duct tape, hot pink and blue with white polka dots (Target is so handy). I used silver pipe cleaner to make a handle.
    Even Abdi, the guy in red who finished 3rd, got excited about bottle decorating
    My awesome looking bottles
    • The pre-race meeting was immense. Hundreds of athletes and their supporters crowded the large room. They went over every detail. Instead of wasting our time in a meeting, they should have figured out how to get more water on the course.
    A very crowded room! The anxiety was palpable.
    • You know how teachers say there is no such thing as a dumb question? Well, that is not true. Athletes ask dumb questions at race meetings. For example, one guy asked “Can we get outside assistance.” Um, really? This is clearly not your first race, so you should know that is race sin number one. Another asked, “Can we carry our own gels with us.” No comment.
      • I started the race with gloves. Around mile three, I tossed them to the side of the road. I heard a spectator say, “Oh goody. A souvenir.” Please wash them. I used those gloves to wipe my very snotty nose.
      • Just in case you were wondering, which you probably weren't, my last name rhymes with tiger. I heard lots of strange and inventive pronunciations of my last name during the race. I'm thinking of changing it now after hearing some better renditions.
      • The aid stations are not at all like in triathlon or any other race you have done. There were 47 tables with 8 athlete’s special needs bottles on each table. At the very end of the 47 tables there was a table with cups of water and a table with Power Ade. It was nearly impossible to grab the special needs bottle and a cup of water. So, I never had any water. The tables were every 5k, not every mile like in most major marathons.
      Can you see my bottle there, second from the left?
      • I had the best cheering squad of any athlete out there. Mark, my good friends Billy and Lara (and baby Paige) and Russ and Eola Scott (parents of my friend Amanda who was also racing) donned multi-colored afro wigs and held up the funniest signs. Thanks guys, you rock.
      You know how spectators always tell you "you're almost there" at  mile 5? Here is the truth.
      Can't let the ridiculous uniform rules go unnoticed!
      Sometimes you just have to state the obvious.
        The awesome cheering crowd Tebowing. Unfortunately, it did not help me or Tebow on Saturday!

        12 comments:

        1. Love this part. I am so going to print it and tape to my kids' bathroom mirrors for inspiration, "As I set new goals for myself over the years, I will remember this challenge and use it to get me through the rough patches, to know that it is possible to overcome the seemingly impossible."

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        2. Love your write-up! Felt like I was there and love all the little insights you provided.

          You are an amazing athlete and so inspiring--congrats on another round of trials!

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        3. I've been waiting for this all day!
          Excellent report :)

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        4. Thanks guys! I appreciate the comments.

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        5. A for effort! And yes you can always tell your grandkids you made it to the trials! Congrats!

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        6. Thanks for sharing all the insights and behind-the-scenes info for those of us who will not be going to any Olympic Trials ever!! You are an amazing athlete not only for your physical abilities but the way you can get outside of your own head and tell it like it is!! You have amazing gifts but your attitude and approach are the difference between you and the flash-in-the pan athletes that are here and gone. I'm excited to see what lies ahead for you!! Enjoy some R&R --

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        7. Congratulations! I am fast at forty, but I hope to be faster at fifty. I are an amazing inspirational lady!

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        8. I looked up your result first and was bummed to find you had had to drop out. But you did so well just getting there, and have been such an inspiration for the over-40 crowd. What a great blog. Thank you!

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